New Albert Lea wedding barn venue passes hurdle

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A new wedding barn venue could soon be in place on Lake Chapeau Drive.

The Albert Lea Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a conditional use permit for the facility to be on property at 504 Lake Chapeau Drive, the former site of the Sons of Norway clubhouse.

The plan passed by a 6-1 vote. Board members Colby Cunningham, Jon Murray, Jason Willner, Rick Mummert, Doug Olson and Pam Schmidt voted yes. Thayne Nordland voted no.

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The request, made by husband and wife Chad and Jayne Iverson, includes renovations to the property. Wedding party dressing rooms are planned on the east side of the barn, and an outdoor patio is expected on the barn’s north side. A grain bin 14 feet in diameter is expected for outdoor food and beverage service, and a parking lot is planned on the southwest side of the property.

The Albert Lea City Council could approve the plan this month. If approval is secured, renovations of the site are expected to be complete in June or July.

The planned wedding center, however, has been controversial in the neighborhood. More than 60 people have signed a petition stating the proposed project is not in the neighborhood’s best interest.

Concerned citizens on Tuesday expressed concern about the proposed wedding barn’s neighborhood location, noise concerns, expected hours of operation and safety concerns with young children in the neighborhood.

In supporting the proposal, Mummert discussed findings of fact.

“We have to look at the findings of fact, and I just don’t see anything that stops or gets in the way of these people’s request,” he said. “I think that we have to, again, look at the facts, and the facts, to me, all aim for approval.”

Jayne Iverson, a nurse for more than 25 years, said negative spin has been put on the plan. She noted extensive community work her and her husband have participated in the community and talked of support for the project in the neighborhood the facility will be in.

Chad Iverson, a longtime contractor, said the facility will not be a disorderly presence in the neighborhood and pledged to operate a respectable business.

Albert Lea resident Mac Ehrhardt said the Iversons will be “excellent neighbors,” and resident and fellow nurse Dori Klocek described Jayne Iverson as honest, caring, intelligent, detail-oriented and other positive descriptors.

“We need more business in the community, and this will help,” Klocek said.

Heather Sadauskis of East Hawthorne Street also voiced her support for the project, saying that by granting the conditional use permit, the city would bring barn weddings to the community and reap the financial benefits.

“A barn wedding is a destination event,” she said.

Neighborhood resident Tammy Grossklaus said the barn would only be 40 feet from her property when the addition is finished, and she expressed concern with the location of the proposed wedding barn.

Grossklaus and her husband, Mark Grossklaus, described the neighborhood as quiet.

Mark Grossklaus said a Realtor informed him his property would lose value if the wedding barn was introduced in the neighborhood, and he expressed concern with the unknown capacity of the facility.

Neighborhood resident Dave Wolter said the venue will add to the neighborhood, adding they see the plan as a way for the community to gain a wedding venue.

Local resident Faith Ryan questioned if the cost of renting the proposed wedding barn would hurt the business.

Jayne Iverson said though they have not finalized rental prices for the facility, she discussed a two-day rental fee of $4,800, an amount she said is relatively inexpensive.

A new parking lot that includes 30 spaces and an additional 16 overflow spaces is being proposed on-site.

Campus Lane resident Connie Peters questioned if there would be enough overflow parking and expressed noise concerns.

Don Savelkoul said the neighborhood already sees activity with the close proximity of City Arena, where he said overflow parking could go.

Savelkoul stated the Iversons will invest money in the project that will benefit the community’s tax base.

“Overall, I think it’s a great project that they are pursuing,” he said.

After the meeting, Jayne Iverson said she was pleased the commission supported the conditional use permit.

“We’re feeling good,” she said. “It was a little bit of a nerve-wracking evening, but I think the (board) has given their opinion and feel that this will be a good thing for Albert Lea. And, like what we stated there, we hope to be good neighbors and good business owners, and we look forward to this new adventure.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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