Powlette told the Dayton Daily News on Monday that the ruling is in contrast to one made in 2019 by Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Timothy O’Connell, who said Stoney Hill Farm’s use of a barn on May 8, 2018 was not covered under the state’s agri-tourism law, but went on in that ruling to outline how weddings can be considered agri-tourism.
“We took that as a ruling in our favor,” Powlette said, referring to how the business after that point had expanded its operations to include tractors, hayrides and alpacas.
He said the Ohio Department of Commerce then sent him a letter saying “weddings on farms have been a great agri-tourism activity on Ohio farms.”
Powlette said Skelton’s 2-page ruling that farm markets and you-pick operations are agri-tourism and weddings are not is “a very narrow definition of agri-tourism,” especially when agri-tourism is defined by Ohio law as “an agriculturally related educational, entertainment, historical, cultural, or recreational activity.”
“It completely ignored the definition of agri-tourism,” he said. “It completely ignored the department of commerce in Ohio and the other cases that we gave him in Spring Valley and Xenia that are using agri-tourism to hold their weddings.”
Powlette said he plans to appeal Skelton’s ruling. But in the meantime, he’ll use the Ohio Supreme Court’s 2017 ruling that those who have a winery and a vineyard and sell a bottle of wine to a bride or groom can thereafter hold a wedding on their farm.
“We planted our vineyard three years ago, we made wine last year and we should have a wine license by the end of this month, so every single contract we have for 2022, they’re required to buy our wine for their wedding,” he said.
Asked for comment, Miami Twp. Administrator Ron Hess said, “We are very pleased with the decision by the Honorable Richard Skelton.” He declined to elaborate further on the case.
Powlette said the appeal process in Montgomery County Court likely will take a year. That won’t be the only litigation involving his business and Miami Twp., he said. Last month, he filed a lawsuit against the township seeking damages for malicious prosecution in a separate case involving a bed-and-breakfast business also operated on the farm.