Hempfield banquet facility owner requests zoning change — in other township

| Thursday, July 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Hempfield business owner who is facing a zoning appeal asked the neighboring township's planning commission for a change to his adjacent property.

Mark Guffey, who operates the Blue Moon Barn & Covered Bridge at 182 Pattern Shop Road, and his attorney, Dan Hewitt, requested a zoning change to the adjacent 50 acres in Unity from A1 agricultural to B2 commercial at the commission's meeting on Tuesday night.

The banquet facility is on the 11-acre Hempfield portion of the property separated by Township Line Run and deeded to his daughter Carissa Lynn Guffey in 1998.

Mark Guffey said four of the bordering seven properties have commercial businesses, and he plans to operate a six-bedroom bed and breakfast in the property's old farmhouse with other wedding-related outdoor activities.

Originally, his request was made for a B1 classification, but only a banquet hall defined as a room attached to a restaurant is a permitted use under that zoning district, said solicitor Gary Falatovich.

If the zoning change is approved, it is likely to withstand a spot-zoning challenge because of its size, he said.

“Usually if it's below 10 acres or under,” it would be more likely to be challenged, Falatovich said.

Falatovich said requests for zoning changes usually are to incorporate smaller parcels into an existing neighboring zoning district, not to create another.

The B2 zoning district permits other mid-size businesses such as banks, convenience stores, day cares, public parking, medical clinics, motels, offices, research labs, retail shops, restaurants, homes and veterinary clinics, Falatovich read from the ordinance.

“B2 is what fits, so that's what we're requesting,” Hewitt said.

An injunction hearing before Judge Richard McCormick Jr. regarding events at the Hempfield property was originally scheduled for Monday and was continued to July 8, Guffey said.

The business owner said he has stopped booking and advertising for weddings at the Blue Moon but has 16 more weddings that were booked prior to the Hempfield zoning decision on May 17.

“I hope the courts will see the validity of letting me continue,” Guffey said. “I'm optimistic and hopeful that those things are going to work out.”

The barn, between Brinkerton and Greensburg-Mt. Pleasant roads, can hold 300 guests, with up to 1,000 accommodated with the addition of tents, according to the business' website.

Hempfield notified the Guffeys in September that they were in violation of the zoning ordinance. The Guffeys filed an appeal with the zoning hearing board in January. After it was denied in May, they appealed the decision in court.

Unity's planning commission approved a preliminary request for the zoning change. Guffey must now appear before township supervisors for a conditional use hearing at 2:30 p.m. July 23.

Guffey said he believes one Hempfield neighbor is the cause of the zoning dispute. He said he has only received one complaint, which was handled promptly by turning down loud music at 11:30 p.m. one night.

“I've upset one neighbor, and I feel terrible, and I would be pleased to accommodate them,” he said.

Hempfield officials said neighbors have complained about parking problems and threats from event guests.

They also said there is no evidence the Guffeys obtained building or occupancy permits from the state when they renovated the barn and bridge.

Guffey said a previous owner used the property for similar purposes as far back as 1962.

He said since he purchased it in 1992, he has improved the property and offers a service that is beneficial to the community and other ancillary businesses, such as caterers, beer distributors and disc jockeys.

Guffey said he does not plan to have to move the business from Hempfield.

“The question is how hard I have to fight,” he said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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