Thursday, August 18

Agricultural Zoning Violation Leaves 40 Couples Without a Wedding Venue

The marriage of Denver Broncos player Eric Decker and country singer Jessie James brought their gorgeous rural venue, Castle Cliff Estates, into the national spotlight. But other brides who booked the venue won’t be able to get the fairy-tale ending they envisioned.

According to Catherine Chase-Groos, who owns the estate in the hills of Douglas County, CO, bookings soared after the celebrity wedding. But the 40 brides who already booked the venue for 2015 will have to be married elsewhere.

After the Decker wedding, several neighbors filed complaints against Castle Cliff Estates, arguing that the property is zoned as agricultural land and is not permitted to be used as an event venue. Castle Cliff Estates is located on a horse farm.

The complaints resulted in Chase-Groos being approached by Douglas County with a violation notice, only a few months after the Decker wedding.

According to Douglas County, Chase-Groos had plenty of time then to fix the problems with her venue or cancel events, but she continued to book clients instead, violating the zoning requirements of her property.

Chase-Groos says that there were already clients booked until 2015 when she received the notice, and that she hoped that the county would allow her to honor the events that she’d already scheduled. Instead, Chase-Groos had to cancel the 40 weddings scheduled at her venue in 2015 and provide the brides with refunds.

“In the linen industry, venues who cancel on a bride at the last minute can still have the linens delivered to another venue with little or no charge if time allows,” explains Francine Renshaw, sales assistant at Connie Duglin Linen. “If the bride needs to cancel her order, the usual 25% deposit fee will usually be waived in most cases.”

As barn weddings grow increasingly popular in the U.S., many country property owners are looking to weddings to make some extra money. However, many of the barns and farmhouses lack the proper certifications to be considered venues, and may not meet health and safety codes. They’ve also been met with backlash from rural dwellers who don’t like loud weddings interrupting their quiet country lives.

As a result, Castle Cliff Estates is hardly the only rural wedding venue in legal trouble, but it is the only one in Douglas County, in spite of the fact that many other similar venues offer wedding services in violation of the same zoning codes.

Douglas County attorney Lance Ingalls told a local NBC affiliate that they plan to open zoning files on the other venues, but they haven’t been disciplined yet because the county hasn’t received complaints.

Both Ingalls and Chase-Groos said they are trying to come to some kind of agreement that would adjust agricultural zoning law to allow events like weddings.

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