A judge recently affirmed Miami Twp.’s decision to uphold a zoning violation against Stoney Hill Farm on Upper Miamisburg Road. NICK BLIZZARD / STAFF

Wedding venue owner: Parts of court ruling ‘big deal,’ favorable to farm

A county court has affirmed Miami Twp.’s decision in a zoning dispute of a wedding venue operator questioning whether the jurisdiction had authority over his farm.

But Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Timothy O’Connell’s decision also stated the “standard for review” is in this case – an administrative appeal – requires the court to uphold the township’s ruling in most circumstances.

And the owner of Stoney Hill Farm said he sees certain aspects of the ruling as “a big deal,” favorable for the future of his business.

Last summer the township’s board of zoning appeals upheld a notice of violation local officials filed against Stoney Hill May 8, 2018.

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Township zoning officials said Stoney Hill was violating the declaration of intent approved months before. However, Powlette challenged the ruling, saying his use of the farm is exempted under the state’s agritourism law.

“The court finds that the evidence supports the determination that Powlette’s use of the barn” on the day he was cited “did not constitute agritourism, further, the evidence shows that the barn was not used” for purposes the Upper Miamisburg Road site’s owner stated in 2017.

That’s when the township granted him an agricultural exemption for “using the barn for viticulture and storing of agricultural products,” according to the ruling.

O’Connell’s decision filed May 30 states “….the standard for review in administrative appeals is not” a new trial “and this court must affirm the board’s ruling unless it is arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable or unsupported by a preponderance of reliable, probative and substantial evidence.

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“When resolving evidentiary conflicts, this court must deference to the findings of the board,” he added.

Later in the ruling, O’Connell stated the township BZA’s decision to uphold the May 8 violation “was not illegal, unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious, and the decision was unsupported by a preponderance of the evidence.”

Messages left with the township and Powlette’s attorney on Wednesday were not returned. However, Powlette said in an email he does not plan to appeal the decision.

Powlette said “the judge ruled in my favor when the township tried to revoke my agricultural exemption on my barn, which for me was a big deal.”

O’Connell wrote: “The BZA also argues that Powlette did not receive an exemption to use the barn as a wedding or event venue. The court does not find this well-taken.”

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The decision further states “the court is unwilling to find at this time that using the barn as a wedding or event venue would never fit within the definition of agritourism if the use of the barn also adhered to and complied with the definition of agritourism.”

Powlette noted: “On the date of May 8, 2018, I didn’t have my Alpacas, chickens, turkeys, and vineyard. It’s our belief that since at this time, we have a large array of agritourism activities the general public can participate in, we meet every definition of agritourism.”

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