The Bartholomew County Board of Zoning Appeals is once again scheduled to hear a request to allow a retreat center near Grandview Lake.
Max Henry is seeking a conditional use variance to allow a retreat center known as the Henry Chateau in the Agriculture: General zoning district at 13200 Bellsville Pike in Ohio Township. His request will be heard at the board’s meeting this Monday, which will be held at 7 p.m. in Columbus City Hall.
More information, including meeting materials and a link to participate via video chat, will be made available at columbus.in.gov/planning/agendas-materials/. A livestream option is also available at columbus.in.gov/video/live-streaming.
Henry’s request was previously on the board’s agenda for July and August, but a continuance was granted both times.
The preliminary recommendation from planning department staff is to approve the request.
“However, the applicant shall clarify that what is represented in the application is the full and complete extent of events that will be hosted on the property,” staff wrote.
Staff also recommended several commitments, including limiting event attendance to 50 people, ending events by 10 p.m., and having no bands, live music or DJ services on the site.
Henry previously submitted applications for an event venue at the same property, which were heard by the board in December of 2020 and July of 2021. Despite both requests being denied, Henry has been operating the site as an event venue and openly advertised it at henrychateau.com and on Facebook, planning staff wrote.
The website for Henry Chateau and the business’s Facebook page can no longer be accessed, and Google Maps lists the venue as permanently closed.
The site — which was still accessible prior to the board’s August meeting — described the business as a “modern wedding and event venue” with the capacity for 250 guests.
According to planning staff, the Department of Technical Code Enforcement found that a Cummins, Inc. corporate event was held at the site in January of 2023, and a business partner has indicated that at least five events have already been booked for future dates.
The ABC-Stewart Montessori School had previously announced plans to hold a fundraising gala at the Henry Chateau on Sept. 8, with the night including an open bar — despite Henry’s retreat center application stating that there would be no open bar events held at the site.
School officials later announced that the gala had been rescheduled for Feb. 23 at The Commons.
Attorney Jeff Rocker told the board in August that Henry’s grandchildren attend ABC-Stewart and that he had planned to host the event as a way to support the school, rather than a commercial event.
According to Henry’s application, if the board approves the conditional use variance, the Henry Chateau will be used as a corporate retreat for “professional, educational or religious meetings and conferences during which meals and recreation will be provided and for which housing shall be available.”
“Typical events will be 20-50 (people),” the application stated. “No bands or DJ services will be involved in these retreats and no outdoor music of any kind will be had. As predominantly daytime corporate events, the majority of these events will have food and non-alcoholic refreshments.”
Henry’s application also stated that there would be limited lighting at the site, screening from the forest, noise levels that would not reach neighboring properties, “no late-night events” and minimal impact on traffic.
Residences to the north and east of the subject property are lots on Grandview Lake and are separated from the property by a large, wooded area owned by the Grandview Lot Owners Association, according to the staff report.
Several Grandview residents have opposed Henry’s application, citing reasons such as the board’s previous denials, his past violation of county regulations, possible traffic hazards, past issues with events at the site, a desire to keep the area rural and residential, concerns about noise, and property values.
The planning department’s staff report included several letters and emails from people who opposed the request as well as those in support.
Some residents have also created a change.org petition opposing Henry’s request. The campaign had over 600 digital signatures, as of Friday morning.
On the other hand, Malachi Henry has started a petition on the same site calling for approval of his father’s request, which has garnered over 500 signatures.
“Columbus is known for its architectural quaintness and small-town community feel; however it lacks a variety of locations to host gatherings such as weddings, business meetings, sports banquets, reunions, or parties to celebrate milestones like graduations, anniversaries, and birthdays,” he wrote. “The Henry Chateau was built on private property to accommodate such a need.”
He added that his father has worked to address concerns about noise levels, traffic and sewage.