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Chic Barn plans hit a speed bump

Nov. 28, 2012

Town of Delafield - Jackie Barutha and her business partner, Olga Thomas, have been in the wedding industry for many years and say they encounter a lot of couples who are looking for a rustic, outdoor barn wedding. Unfortunately, there are no area locations that fit that need. The closest are in Madison or northern Illinois.

"There's a really great need for it in this industry," said Barutha. "It would be a great asset to the area."

And that's where Barutha and Thomas are hoping that the Chic Barn will come in. Their brainchild, which would operate in the easternmost barn at the Old Lynndale Farms estate off Highway JK, would be a destination wedding ceremony and banquet facility for up to 250 guests. The 8,500-square-foot wooden structure features three levels, with the top level being a lofted barn. It would operate primarily on weekends, but would have open hours during the week for appointment-based showings.

The pair say they already have 14 couples lined up who are looking to be the first to book their weddings in the Chic Barn. They were planning to have the barn operational by the 2013 spring season, but that goal has largely been pushed back until at least autumn of 2013 based on some unexpected holdups.

For the past couple of months, Barutha and Thomas, along with their project architect, have been meeting with the town Plan Commission to work out the challenges that come with being the first facility of its kind in the area. The Plan Commission has green lighted the project to continue moving forward in planning stages, but the process slowed Tuesday, Nov. 21, when they voted to table the duo's request to approve a conditional-use permit for the facility with many variables still up in the air.

Town Supervisor Clare Dundon expressed support for the concept of the Chic Barn, but said she couldn't approve the permit at this point.

"This is a wonderful use for this building. It's very creative, and I think it would be a great use for a barn of this type," said Dundon. "However, this property poses a lot of challenges that need to be addressed before I could cheerfully go forward with this."

Parking problems

Those problems include parking and the lack of water in the building. Currently, Barutha and Thomas plan to offer 30 parking spaces in the lot across the street, which is owned by Apple Automotive. There is no parking available at the Old Lynndale Farms facility. According to Barutha, Apple Automotive has given the Chic Barn a verbal go-ahead on an indefinite contract to move forward with this plan, but the Plan Commission has concerns about the safety of guests crossing Highway JK as well as the lack of written contract.

Barutha has said they plan to offer a shuttle service from the parking lot as well as area hotels, but that has not been set in stone yet either.

Water an issue

Lack of water could be the biggest hindrance to the project moving forward. Since there is no water supply to the building - it was primarily used in the past to house machinery - they would start with movable, temporary restroom facilities that do not rely on an outside water supply. With a small current budget, they are not planning on putting in permanent restrooms until much later, once some funds start coming in. This means that there would also not be any sprinkler system in place in the case of a fire.

Fire Chief Paul Kozlowski spoke to the Plan Commission about the inherent dangers of operating a wedding facility in such a structure.

"It would be difficult for us to get to the structure and get people out safely," said Kozlowski, noting the barn's placement so close to the road and how quickly a barn fire can take off. "The slightest spark could set that building off."

Kozlowski recommended installing a sprinkler system throughout the building, but conceded that such a system probably isn't in the pair's budget at this point. He also suggested that, while smoking is not permitted indoors in Wisconsin, they should not allow smoking even outdoors on the premises, and that no open flames such as candles should be allowed inside the facility.

Other issues

Town Chairman Paul Kanter said that Barutha and Thomas need a site plan, grading plan, lighting plan and plan of operation in place before a conditional-use permit could be approved, explaining that he has a fiduciary responsibility to the town to have everything laid out first.

"We're supposed to get all this stuff, but we haven't received any of it," said Kanter. "There's nothing to discuss; there's nothing to approve."

Tim Barbeau, the head engineer for the Town of Delafield, recommended that the Plan Commission approve the use of the property while specifying the conditions that still needed to be met, as this is not a typical project.

Approving the conditional use would at least give Barutha and Thomas the peace of mind of knowing that, if they complete all of the work and meet all of the requirements, they will be approved.

"This is a very unique situation. We've seen conceptual plans; they've talked to the county about getting a permit. … There's quite a substantial amount of work to be done before they could satisfy us to [the point Kanter suggested]," said Barbeau.

However, the Plan Commission ultimately decided to table talks until Barutha and Thomas bring them all of the necessary documents. While the meeting Tuesday presented a speed bump for the Chic Barn, everyone on the Plan Commission was quick to emphasize that they like the plan for the building and want to see this project move forward.

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