Guelph/Eramosa council has signed off on a plan that will allow a local farm to host events like weddings at a seasonal on-site venue, a venture township staff say may be the first of its kind in Guelph/Eramosa.
At Monday’s meeting, council updated the agricultural property’s zoning to allow a newly constructed barn-style structure to be used as a seasonal events venue and permit a nearby outdoor ceremony area.
“There’s jobs here, this is wonderful,” Mayor Chris White said. “This is actually what we want to see, is support for the agriculture community. It’s not an apartment building, it’s not an asphalt plant. This is exactly how we want to go.”
Meagan Ferris, manager of planning and environment for the township, told council the zoning change will allow Thatcher Farms to host events like weddings, receptions, corporate day retreats and anniversary parties on a seasonal basis from May 1 to October 31. Attendance will be capped at 140 people per event.
Council spent around half an hour going over the finer points of the zoning change and upped the number of farm dinners allowed annually to 10. Ferris had initially suggested five and noted council’s decision on the matter would set a precedent.
“This is probably the first application that the township has to establish the legal use of a property for a wedding venue and a series of other types of special events," she said. "So I feel like this development proposal really sets the bar for any future applications that might be coming down the pipe, which is very potentially likely."
For her part, Dana Thatcher of Thatcher Farms told GuelphToday it “feels great” to have the approval from council.
As a former teacher, Thatcher said opening the farm up to the public is important to her.
“This new building is going to help us do just that," she said. "Where we can have farm dinners, we can continue with our school tours, and really allow the public and the community to engage with agriculture, because there is such a disconnect.”
“I just think it’s the next step in our business, not for growth, but for guest experience.”
Given the pandemic, the new venue likely won’t be playing host to any events until next year, Thatcher explained. But the public may be able to take a peek inside this fall during the farm’s annual corn maze.
“We definitely aren’t jumping the gun to starting hosting weddings until COVID is really under control and behind us,” Thatcher said.
Approval of the final site plan, when complete, will be up to the township's chief administrative officer.
Alison Sandstrom, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com