Appeal denied – board upholds special use for 180 days

A conditional special use permit for the next 180 days, allowing Ren Weise to conduct outdoor weddings on his property located at 4975 Palm Valley Road in Ponte Vedra Beach, was approved by county commissioners on a 4-0 vote; Ken Bryan was not able to vote because of a declared conflict of interest.

The site, known as Palm Valley Gardens LLC, is developed with a large residential structure and was previously a wholesale landscaping nursery.

Because of a complaint received in 2010 regarding the use of the property, a Special Use Permit application was filed, and granted, allowing for outdoor weddings over a trial period of one year.

A second Special Use Permit application was filed in November 2011 for a continuation of the unlisted use (outdoor weddings) and unpaved parking.

Because the renewed Special Use Permit included certain restrictions set by the Planning and Zoning Agency that the applicant found “too restrictive”, Palm Valley Gardens LLC appealed.

Specifically, Ren Weise maintained that the conditions for approval, which included limitations of the permit for one-year, non-transferability of the permit, requirement of fencing on the north property line, and requiring a tent enclosure, were unreasonable.

After an investigation by County Staff, they determined the site-specific conditions approved by the Planning and Zoning Agency were an attempt to mitigate incompatibilities with adjacent properties and to ensure the use could coexist with the surrounding residential uses.

At the public hearing the Planning and Zoning Agency heard testimony regarding noise generated from the use, drainage, and discrepancies with the previously approved Final Order.

Today’s item was continued from the April 17, 2012 Board of County Commissioners meeting in order to allow the applicant and neighboring properties owners an opportunity to prepare revised conditions.

It was anticipated that alternative conditions would be proposed that addressed days and hours of operation, tent use, and single-family structure use.

Instead, during the past two weeks, commissioners and staff obtained a substantial amount of evidence that the applicant was routinely expanding the scope of their business. There were photographs and printed sale material that showed routine use of the single-family residence on the property for commercial purposes, and generally, soliciting wedding event bookings for Palm Valley Gardens without regard for the limited purposes of outdoor weddings that had been approved.

So, after two hours of debate, comment, and a 20-minute legal recess, a motion was approved that will shut the operation down by October 31, 2012.

What they have booked is what they have — between today and October 31; they can take no more bookings, and any wedding already booked for a date after October 31, is canceled.

Palm Valley Gardens LLC has seven days to turn over the names, dates and contact information for all booked events. The County Administrator, Michael Wanchick, will draft a memo explaining the conditions of the weddings that will be held during the next 180 days and ample warning to others to find another venue. A copy of the memo, along with a copy of the findings and decision reached today, will be mailed from Wanchick’s office in order to control and supervise compliance.

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