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Cottage Grove barn approved for wedding venue project

Cottage Grove residents Angie and Wayne Butt, owners of a historic property on Lamar Avenue, were recently approved to turn their property into a wedding venue. (Bulletin file photo by Scott Wente)

Old Cottage Grove residents Wanye and Angi Butt are hearing wedding bells, figuratively speaking.

The couple spent much of the last year crafting a proposal to turn their historic Lamar Avenue property into a country wedding and event venue, and with the recent approval of a historic places conditional use permit (HPCUP), they have been given the green light to proceed.

The Cottage Grove City Council approved the permit allowing the Butts to host weddings and events in an outdoor tent until their 130-foot dairy barn is refurbished. Their long-term vision, Senior Planner John Burbank told the council, is to host upward of 130 events per year on the property.

The council’s approval also puts the barn on the city’s Local Register of Historic Places.

The couple’s home was built in 1854 by John Furber, a founder of Cottage Grove, and is now listed on both the Local and National Register of Historic Places. The Butts purchased the property in 2010 with the vision to turn their 159-year-old farmstead, specifically the white dairy barn, into a grand hall for weddings and special events.

The Cottage Grove Planning Commission first heard the proposal earlier this summer but sent the couple back to the drawing board to address concerns neighbors raised regarding noise and traffic.

Since then the Butts have modified their plan, including the relocation of the access driveway to better accommodate adjacent homeowners. Originally, they proposed installing a new driveway on the south end of the property. But after a neighbor expressed concern, the Butts decided to use the existing unpaved two-way driveway near their home

“I like the change and that you decided to move the driveway away from you neighbor,” Mayor Myron Bailey said. “I think that was a good move.”

With the barn in need of extensive rehabilitation work and the couple wanting to get the business of the ground next year, the Butts will temporarily use an outdoor tent, up to 4,000 square feet, to host events, an idea that still has neighbors concerned about noise.

“We want it to be so quiet back there that our neighbors don’t even know that an event is going on,” Wayne said during the commission meeting in August. “I can’t stop the police from being summoned and things might happen that will be out of our control, but we will do what we can to minimize the activity to keep this thing going forward.”

To assist the Butts in keeping noise levels under control, the plans require the events to shut down at 10 p.m. during the weekdays and midnight on the weekends. A noise meter will also be on the property and will be monitored. Burbank said he also recommends an off-duty police officer be present during events.

The tent, Wayne said, will be taken down after each event.

Parking and added traffic was another topic of discussion that was modified during the planning process. The Planning Commission recommended a phased paved parking lot approach but the Butts, who said they want to keep as much of the rural integrity of the property as possible, asked for reconsideration.

“I think this is a unique use and part of the character of this location is that it is more rural,” Bailey agreed. “I think the whole ambiance is the barn and the fields, and I don’t know that, at this point, (the parking) needs to meet standards of what we’re doing with our commercial (properties).”

“The fact that we are granting it historic (designation), it should still look a little historic and I think by putting all that pavement in takes away some of that,” council member Dave Thiede said.

A phased parking plan remains part of the long-term vision but in the near future, the Butts are planning for a grass and gravel parking lot with 155 parking spaces and a small overflow area.

The driveway, however, will be paved, Wayne said.

At the recommendation of the city’s Technical Review Committee, a designated, hard surface handicap parking area will be installed.

“I don’t want to see a whole sea of asphalt here,” Bailey said. “But I do want to make sure we are providing the customers with a good surface and that they aren’t stepping in mud.”

Relating to traffic, Burbank said the operation has the potential for 400 additional daily trips, as much as 52,000 yearly trips, in that neighborhood but added the roads can withstand the added traffic.

“It’s nothing out of the norm for a neighborhood like that,” he said.

If the venue does affect the lifespan of nearby roads, Burbank said the city’s current pavement management would be in effect should reconstruction be scheduled.

Public Works Director Les Burshten said Lamar Avenue, while it isn’t in the current capital improvement plan, will need to be addressed in the near future.

“I don’t think we have done anything to that road, as far as paving, in 25 years,” he said. “That’s a rural road that sometimes falls outside of what we do with pavement management and that should be looked at. But 400 trips on a residential street, that is a pretty average number.”

Hope Glen Farm owners, Paula and Michael Bushilla spoke during the public hearing and said they were happy to see the city steering away from a paved parking lot in the immediate future and were excited to have another wedding venue with historic ties open in Cottage Grove.

With the permit in hand, Wayne said he and Angi can begin crossing items off their to-do list and start investing in sweat equity.

“The goal is to at least get started, get in there and put insulation in the barn and just work on the property,” Wayne said. “The barn, to me, is ready to go as a shell. But, unfortunately, without a suppression system it’s far from it.

“Inside there is gutters from the cows and milking room and parlor, so that all has to be smoothed out and resurfaced in there,” he added. “I haven’t studied the numbers yet, but our goal was to get the HPCUP and start chasing this all down.”