Monteagle Planning Approves ‘Barn-on-a-Farm’

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Following lengthy discussion at a March 22 special called meeting, the Monteagle Planning Commission approved a site plan for a barn to be used in conjunction with agro-tourism on an approximately 175-acre farmland tract. Impacted property owners complained about lack of communication.

At the March 1 meeting, the council initially approved the site plan titled “Barn on a Farm,” then rescinded approval when neighboring Country Mart property owner Tim Trahan raised objections.

“We’re not opposed to what they’re doing,” Trahan insisted at the special called meeting. “The unknowns are what the issue is.” The town planner refused to return Trahan’s phone calls and to provide him with a copy of the site plan. However, when Trahan contacted Mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman, she honored the site plan request.

“I don’t like the way the way it was done,” said farm owner Matt Sparacio. Sparacio first approached the planning commission about the project in November 2021. He said he never heard from town planner Garret Haynes or building inspector Earl Geary about how to proceed. At the January planning commission meeting, he sought a building permit and was told he needed a site plan. Again, he was informed he would be contacted with advice on how to proceed, but never was. And when approval was rescinded, it was two weeks before he received official notification.

“We want to do it right…that’s the reason for going a bit slower,” said Rodman. “I’ve heard three nights in a row there is an issue with our planning process,” she acknowledged. “I didn’t know Garret wasn’t talking with you.” [See “Monteagle: Critical Fire Department, Water Plant Needs”].

Planning Commission Chair Iva Michelle Russell observed in February the town planners presented a workshop on agricultural uses in municipalities. “I don’t think they [the planners] knew how to deal with it [the Sparacio project],” Russell said.

At the special called meeting, Sparacio provided a more detailed site plan for the commission’s review. “If I’d known this is what you wanted five months ago, I would have given it to you.”

Upon questioning by the commission, Sparacio verified the ag-tourism project would be restricted to the fenced 7.5 acres shown on the plan and not expanded. The farm uses rotational grazing, moving animals to a new site every three days, so animal waste did not present a concern.

Russell said no fencing requirements applied to the project. In response to a question about noise, Monteagle Alderman Nate Wilson said the town ordinance governing noise referenced decibels, not distance from other property owners.

Trahan pointed out the current ordinance allowing agricultural uses on commercial property prohibited “agricultural business.”

Commissioner Ed Provost concurred. Provost made the motion to approve the site plan but stressed the inconsistency in the ordinance needed addressed. “It will have to be presented in April,” Rodman said.

“Agriculture is a business,” commented commissioner Peter Beasley following the meeting.

The ordinance allowing agricultural uses specifically prohibits “agricultural industry or business, such as fruit or vegetable packing plants, animal hospitals, or similar uses.”

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