Renville County considers allowing wedding barn venues

OLIVIA -- Barns are becoming an increasingly popular wedding venue, but as of now, they're not allowed in the county billing itself as the state's top agricultural producer.


OLIVIA - Barns are becoming an increasingly popular wedding venue, but as of now, they're not allowed in the county billing itself as the state's top agricultural producer.

That might be about to change, as members of the Renville County Board of Commissioners indicated they are open to the possibility of establishing a license for wedding barn venues.

"I don't want to just say no," said Commissioner Doug Erickson as he and other board members responded to Scott Refsland, director of environmental services for the county.

Refsland told the commissioners that he recently had an inquiry from a barn owner in the county who is interested in the possibility of converting it for hosting weddings. Reflsand said the individual doesn't want to go forward with exploring the possible business without knowing whether the county would allow it.

And, Refsland said he needed to know whether the commissioners are open to the possibility before he and his staff devote significant time to researching what requirements counties place on these operations.


He has completed some initial research, starting with a review of the county's own ordinances governing commercial activities in agricultural areas of the county.

"As of right now, our ordinance does not allow it," Refsland said.

Kandiyohi County is among the counties that do allow it. There are currently two permitted operations in the Kandiyohi County. It is now exploring whether to allow overnight lodging as part of such operations, he said.

Refsland said he found that Brown, McLeod and Scott counties are among the other counties in this part of the state that do allow wedding barn venues. McLeod approved three conditional use permits for parties intending to offer wedding barn venues, but none of them have gone forward.

That's likely because of "sticker shock," Refsland said. There are state regulations for wedding barn venues in areas of the state without their own building codes. The requirements for building integrity, electrical and fire safety can make it very expensive to bring a rustic barn up to modern codes, he said.

Commissioners John Stahl and Randy Kramer said they have attended weddings in barns, and found the venue impressive.

Kramer said he too did not want to stand in the way of someone exploring a possible economic venture. And, he quipped: "From what weddings cost today, trust me ... too bad my barn is gone."

The commissioners also noted that a wedding venue in an agricultural area could raise a number of issues. Neighbors may not appreciate the new traffic on gravel roads, or the noise from the wedding reception. That raises possible issues ranging from the possibility of establishing setback distances so that noise issues are reduced, as well as requirements that roads be sprayed to reduce dust.


Along with researching the issues, Refsland said the county's Planning Commission would hold a public hearing on any proposed change allowing wedding barn venues. He said the party interested in offering a wedding barn venue would like to move forward with the process in the next couple of months.

In other business, the commissioners appointed Randy Kramer as chairman of the board for 2018. He succeeds Bob Fox.

Board members also appointed the county's first representatives to the newly created, two-county, Minnesota River Master Plan Committee. Renville and Redwood counties will be working jointly to develop recreational opportunities in the Minnesota River corridor they share.

Renville County's representatives will include Commissioner Erickson, Refsland; Susie Lang, economic development coordinator; Jesse Diehn, parks manager; Linda Callier and Stephen Altman, parks and trails committee members.

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