A county agency has given approval for a Columbus couple to open a wedding barn east of Elizabethtown.

The Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved a variance for Blackberry Hill Wedding Barn, despite a planning staff recommendation for denial.

Mark and Kimberly Corbin of Lantern Lane in Columbus submitted their plan to tear down an existing house on a second property they own — 2.16 acres at 9960 N. State Road 7 — to accommodate a wedding barn that also provides flowers, catering and a sound system.

Although the couple’s proposal for the agriculture preferred-zoned property meets with most legal requirements, the county planning staff recommended the BZA turn down the proposal based on two criteria:

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The wedding barn will alter the residential character of the area, which could affect neighboring homes.

There has been no evidence that establishes the need for a wedding and event facility to take the place of the current residence.

While a few neighbors made those points during last week’s meeting, BZA members overruled the staff recommendation and determined all criteria had been met, assistant city-county planner Melissa Begley said.

The Corbins also received a variance that will allow them to have 17 on-site parking spaces, far less than the 67 required spaces for most event venues.

Last week’s BZA approval was just the first step the Columbus couple must take before their wedding barn can be established on the Bartholomew-Jennings County line.

Since nearly two-thirds of the property is in Jennings County, the couple will be required to provide evidence to Bartholomew County that their plans have been approved by county officials in Vernon before opening the business, Begley said.

State approval also will be necessary before the Corbins can receive a building permit to further renovate the barn and property in Clay Township, she said.

When a proposal for a similar venue off County Road 930S near Waymansville came before the county BZA in 2014, concerns expressed by neighbors largely focused on potential safety hazards from increased traffic.

But since State Road 7 already carries about 9,000 vehicles daily, Blackberry Hill Wedding Barn will have a minimal impact on the already high traffic volume, according to the staff report.

The idea for a wedding-barn business began when the Corbins fixed up the 45-foot by 64-foot barn to accommodate the Oct. 15, 2016, wedding of their daughter, Maggie Fleetwood, the couple stated in their application.

If the event venue is built, the barn and parking area will be landscaped and kept up “to bring out a welcoming appearance that will enhance the east side of the highway,” the couple stated.

Approval would allow the addition of restrooms, as well as a sink and counter for caterers, to the wedding barn that will have both upstairs and downstairs reception areas, as well as room for outdoor weddings, the Corbins stated.

In a handout to the BZA, the Corbins included a year-old excerpt from the VenueCenter Blog on wedding barns:

“They’ve been steadily growing in popularity the last few years, proving they’re here to stay. If current trends hold true, barn weddings will become the most popular wedding venue by 2020.”

The Corbins and their son-in-law, Carson Fleetwood, a carpenter, worked on renovation of the barn from February of October of last year, Mark Corbin said. If all of the necessary approvals are granted, Corbin said they hope to open Blackberry Hill Wedding Barn in September.

What's next?

Although the Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a variance for Blackberry Hill Wedding Barn, the board also stated the following conditions must be met regarding the property at 9960 North State Road 7.

  • Evidence of the approval of the wedding/event venue by Jennings County shall be provided to the Bartholomew County Planning Department prior to any event.
  • An updated site plan detailing parking space setbacks, sight visibility triangles, property lines and edging along State Road 7 must be submitted to the county planning department.
  • Approval from the state of Indiana is required before a building permit will be issued.
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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.