Just a couple hours before the Kosciusko County commissioners meeting Tuesday morning, the two sides of the Blue Barn Berry Farm rezoning request came to an agreement.

The commissioners approved the rezoning, with the voluntary conditions set forth in the agreement as part of the approval.

On Sept. 4, the Area Plan Commission unanimously approved Blue Barn Berry Farm’s request to have 8.16 acres rezoned from residential to agriculture. Blue Barn, owned and operated by Peggy Bucher and Shanda Scheeren, began operating at 9139 N. CR 300E, Syracuse, about six years ago as a U-pick blueberry farm. The farm gradually added a country market, pavilions and an event center capable of hosting a 200-person wedding.

There were remonstrators against the rezoning at the Area Plan Commission meeting and when the rezoning went before the commissioners Sept. 17. The plan commission is a recommending body to the commissioners, who have final approval on rezonings. At the Sept. 17 meeting, the county commissioners tabled the rezoning request to allow the disputing neighbors time to work it out.

Rezoning the property would allow Blue Barn to request an exception before the Board of Zoning Appeals for a commercial recreation use.

At Tuesday’s commissioners meeting, Area Plan Director Dan Richard reminded the commissioners of the facts of the rezoning request and that the Plan Commission unanimously recommended the rezoning be approved.

Jack Birch, attorney for the petitioners, said, “I’m happy to tell you that after virtually a month, as late as 10 o’clock last night, we were able to reach an agreement. We’ve got voluntary conditions that we would propose to attach to the rezoning request, and based upon that, then the remonstrators that have spoken would agree to withdraw their remonstrance, both to this and to the BZA process, based upon all the conditions we have committed to go forward with.”

Steve Snyder, attorney for the remonstrators, agreed with Birch. “We did spend a lot of time, right down to, actually, 7 o’clock this morning, believe it or not. The conditions are detailed. They satisfy the remonstrators. And if they are accepted by the commissioners and adopted as voluntary conditions, which are the only type of conditions you can adopt, then we will withdraw the remonstrance to the rezoning and will not remonstrate against the request for commercial recreation made to the Board of Zoning Appeals.”

“It’s the best news I’ve had all day,” Commissioner Brad Jackson said. “I was ready to listen to you guys for an hour go back and forth.”

Commissioner Bob Conley thanked both sides and said their due diligence was much appreciated. “I’ve got more information on this one thing than (anything else) in the 16 years I’ve been here, and I appreciate both sides willing to soften a little bit,” he said.

Cary Groninger, commissioner, said the agreement made the commissioners’ decision a lot easier. With no other speakers for or against the rezoning, the commissioners approved it 3-0.

There are 17 voluntary conditions, according to a copy of the four-page agreement, provided by Birch.

Those include, in part, that the Blue Barn “shall provide documentation of updated and revised state plan releases, State Health Department approvals and County Health Department approvals based on the actual current use of the property and buildings.” Blue Barn will verify the state plan release application correctly notes the number of persons permitted to be in attendance at events and the number of persons employed.

Use of the facilities is subject to state or local approval of sanitary disposal. There will be no restrictions on water skiing on Lake Jacob during any event held by Blue Barn. Blue Barn must install landscape screening on the west and north side of its property/structures.

In accordance with the county zoning ordinance, a storm water design, erosion control study and traffic study for this type of commercial facility will be completed and presented to the Board of Zoning Appeals at the time of the exception hearing.

Unless approved as provided in the agreement, no further expansion of the facility will be allowed other than the installation of proper restroom facilities, a small dressing facility and small storage building on the property. Any additional structures must be screened with landscaping.

The current storage container onsite will be removed upon the completion of the added small storage building. The owners of Blue Barn will allow proper access to Lake Jacob via the boat ramp and no Blue Barn activities will interfere with that use.

All sources of music will be contained within or under the roof of the pavilions. There will be no live music or bands.

Blue Barn will publish and provide a monthly schedule of events to Cindonway property owners.

All music and bright lights not properly shielded from Cindonway properties and the serving of alcohol will end by 10 p.m.

The months of operation of the Blue Barn event pavilions will be restricted from April 1 through Nov. 30 or as further approved by the Cindonway property owners.

No outdoor events with music shall occur Monday through Thursday. All Sunday events, except a Sunday immediately preceding a Monday holiday, and/or holiday events will end by 8 p.m. Events on Friday, Saturday or Sundays immediately preceding a legal holiday will end by 10 p.m.

An easement in favor of the lots in the two Cindonway additions will be dedicated along that portion of the shoreline of Lake Jacob that is not designated on the plats as common area. The easement will permit lot owners access to this area, allow maintenance of the lake bank and permit use of the easement area for the conduct of ski tournaments. A similar easement will be granted to the owners of lots in the two Cindonway additions over the entirety of Lake Jacob for use of the lake, general upkeep and maintenance of the lake.

Any required improvements described in the agreement must be completed before the first wedding in 2020. If Blue Barn fails to comply with the conditions, the Board of Zoning Appeals has the authority to revoke the approval of the exception.

Finally, the agreement states the two sides agree to work together to develop a plan for the proper maintenance and upkeep of Cindonway Shores development.