Commissioners greenlight New Castle wedding venue | PostIndependent.com

Commissioners greenlight New Castle wedding venue

When the Garfield County Board of Commissioners met last Monday they heard several proposals to grow the local economy and bring new revenue streams into the county. While the Peach Valley River Park project was rejected, the commissioners elected to move forward with the nearby Red Barn proposal.

The Dec. 18 hearing lasted several hours and was a continuation from a hearing nearly a month earlier. After much deliberation, the commissioners decided a new wedding venue and community meeting facility would be best for the valley, despite some pushback from soon-to-be neighbors.

"Can you stop progress?" Commissioner Mike Samson asked before making his decision. "Yes and no. You can, but if you do, don't you become stale? I don't think we want to be a stale county. We want to encourage people to do new things and branch out to offer new services."

With reservations, he elected to vote for the Red Barn proposal as did Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, while John Martin voted no. The vote passed 2-1.

The proposal is to establish a new community meeting facility to hold events such as weddings, corporate retreats, family picnics or reunions, quilting retreats and similar gatherings at the Red Barn facility at 345 County Road 262 in New Castle.

The applicant, Larry Halonen, will utilize existing buildings on site, including the already constructed Red Barn, the Carriage House, lawns and orchards. The Main House will be used for small gathering such as rehearsal dinners.

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The proposal is for an average event size of 85 to 105 guests, with 30 to 40 vehicles. There will be occasional larger gatherings of up to 300 people, but the goal is to host approximately 60 events annually with only one or two of the larger 300 person events, according to the application. No further development is being proposed at the buildings already on site. Lodging will also be available on site.

Access will be off of County Road 262 also known as Mid Valley Lane.

Each hearing was met with both criticism and support from Garfield County residents and stakeholders. The commissioners and public were invited to a site visit prior to the second hearing.

"I am writing to express my strong objections to above proposed 'community meeting facility,'" Silt resident Linda Dixon wrote to the county commissioners. "It is not progress to allow people, businesses or land owners to recreate the mess they left behind in the big city (and one they helped create) such as congested traffic, increased density, noise — all the things that decrease the quality of life,"

She would later voice her concerns at the Dec. 18 hearing, which included several comments from nearby residents, asking what the proposal adds to the valley.

"We who are representing Peach Valley today like our quiet neighborhood that we have loved for years," Peach Valley resident Barbara Chaplin said.

She asked what the application is "bringing to our valley that would be important and would add to the beauty to the way we live?"

Not all the public comments voiced concerns.

"Rib City is excited for this new venue to be opened and can't wait to our first event with the Hallets," Mike Spradlin, owner of Rib City in Rifle, wrote in a letter to the commissioners.

"I am writing this letter to give my support to Richard Hallet, owner of Red Barn Guest Ranch," wrote Randy Winkler, owner of Micro Plastics and former Rifle mayor. "I believe this will be great business for the entire valley."

In response to some of the criticism the application faced, daily operational manager at the Red Barn Guest Ranch Richard Hallet said, "One of our first concerns was sound, and I think we've resolved that issue."

He used sound data collected at different points to illustrate his point.

Samson agreed.

"I think you've taken care of the noise problem and that was one of the big concerns I had," he said.

He went on to say that "commissioners have to constantly weigh a balance in their county. We want things to grow and prosper, I think most people do, within reason."

He eventually elected to vote for the new Red Barn community meeting facility with reservations.

Chair John Martin disagreed.

"It's a great neighborhood and it's going to be an interesting discussion after the vote," he said. "I always like economic development and we're open for business in some ways, in other way we're trying to conserve neighborhoods."

Hallet said that the first events will be held in May and the venue has received a lot of positive response from event holders and brides-to-be across the valley.

Those seeking the local venue space should visit https://redbarnguestranch.com/quilting-form/.