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A public hearing is scheduled for next week to discuss a zoning ordinance amendment to allow rural resorts, or event venues, in the county.

Currently, event venues aren’t mentioned in the zoning ordinance and thus aren’t allowed. Some properties are able to host events using previous language allowing seasonal or brief uses providing they do not exceed 17 cumulative days a month. However, unless grandfathered in, new properties are not able to use the previous language since it was changed earlier this year to limit brief activities to no more than 15 cumulative days per year. Activities now must also be consistent with by-right or special use regulations in their zoning district.

Several months ago, planning commissioners began discussing new language allowing event venues. Much of the conversation has revolved around Barbara Miller, an entrepreneur seeking to create an event venue, or rural resort, on 762 acres off Rt. 231. Her business would be a mix of glamping with a multipurpose venue space promoting the environment and a love of the land.

To accommodate Miller’s vision, and others like it, the commission, with guidance from county attorney Sean Gregg, developed a zoning ordinance amendment. The amendment will add “rural resort” to the list of special permitted uses in the A-1 Agricultural District. A “rural resort” is defined as “a destination designed to provide recreation, entertainment and accommodations to transient guests.” Permissible activities at a rural resort include conferences; weddings; retreat facilities; educational and entertainment facilities; dining and picnicking facilities; camping and glamping facilities; resort store; indoor and outdoor athletic and physical fitness facilities; hiking, cycling, fishing, canoeing, rafting, tubing, wildlife observation shelters; boat landing/docks; equestrian trails and facilities; administrative, utility service, laundry and construction facilities and staff living quarters.

Rural resorts must be situated on lots that are a minimum of 100 acres with at least 50 percent remaining open space. Buildings cannot exceed 40 feet or four stories in height.

In addition, the state’s definition of “agritourism” would also be added to the zoning ordinance, as well as “cabin,” “glamping,” “music or entertainment festival,” “resort store” and “transient guest.” A new article would be added to establish policy, procedures and requirements for rural resort special use permit applications.

A joint public hearing by the planning commission and the Madison County Board of Supervisors will be held Wednesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. in the county auditorium at 414 N. Main Street. The ordinance can be viewed in its entirety online at

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