Attempts to save rural charm angers the neighbors

The idea of creating an event venue in rural areas threatened by sprawl seems like a novel idea. Afton, for example, has experimented with the idea of allowing a zone of former farms to serve as a buffer to keep Woodbury, the city that never saw a shopping center it didn’t like, at bay.

Who could be opposed to the idea of keeping the rural character of a soon-to-be-suburb? Neighbors, the New York Times reports today (“Neighbors Say Barn Weddings Raise a Ruckus”).

Take Scott Jordan, for example. He owns 50 acres in Grant, Minnesota, and spent more than $300,000 to restore a barn on his property to rent out for weddings.

He said the neighbors ganged up on him, sparking a series of meetings in town intended to stop the project.

“We moved out here for the rural nature, the quiet aspects of it, the open space,” Tom Windisch, 47, told the Times. “So do I want a band cranking music out of that building several times a week? No, I do not. Anybody would have reacted the way we did.”

It’s a scene that’s played out in decades all over America. People move to an area for its rural character, then fight the natives who are the ones who provide the rural character, but have to make a buck to maintain it. The dispute, we suppose, is one reason landowners give up and sell to Walmart.

“The people who have these barns have a passion to protect the history of the land,” Steve Corrigan, who owns an event barn in Wisconsin, said. “When you drive through the countryside, you’ll see deteriorated barns that have fallen into disrepair. When they’re gone, it destroys the skyline.”

The wedding-in-a-barn-boom doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In Wisconsin alone, there were 44 such locales last year and 8 more were planned this year.

“As a preservationist, I feel it’s been a godsend for some of these barns to be saved like this,” Bill Bruentrup, the chairman of Friends of Minnesota Barns, tells the Times. “Some of them were beautiful old barns, and if it wasn’t for this to generate some income, they wouldn’t exist. But I’m not the neighbor who moved out to the country for peace and quiet and has to hear a band playing till 12 o’clock at night.”

Related: Fighting for an American Countryside (Minnesota Public Radio News)