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Corporation takes control over 'Party Barn'
Call them victims of their own success.
The Kirkland House Foundation which maintains Hawthorne Grove Park is turning over the responsibility for events to the Corporation of Delta due to the volume of bookings.
The foundation met with the municipality in late October to indicate that the popularity of the Harris Barn since opening last May has generated more work than it can handle.
"It was becoming too onerous for a volunteer organization, it's a full-scale operation to deal with that barn," said Delta's director of parks, recreation and culture Ken Kuntz.
Kuntz said the municipality was also concerned about the operational impacts of the barn, particularly the effect it was having on neighbours making noise complaints for weddings held there during the summer.
Tara and Rick Sudbury, whose backyard faces the barn, have filed an application for judicial review with the Agricultural Land Commission, claiming that the "party barn" is in non-compliance for allowed uses on the property.
In a staff report endorsed by Delta Council on Monday, an amended license agreement will aim to reduce complaints from neighbours by shifting the use over time to encompass broader activities.
The report says the barn offers excellent opportunities for community programming, including instructional and community recreation programs, such as photography, dance and fitness. A copy of the report will be forwarded to neighbouring residences along Arthur Drive.
Delta originally entered into an agreement with the foundation in 2005 for the purpose of allowing them to provide heritage programs and services. Although the foundation has restored the house, developed community gardens and a gazebo, in more recent years it has become a popular venue for weddings.
From left: Lynn Pope, Anne Long, Tara Sudbury, and Perry Long are unhappy with the noise emanating from the Harris Barn at Kirkland Park. Rob Newell photo.
The foundation has already committed to approximately 72 rentals in 2014, which effectively has filled capacity for the barn for the entire year. The new rental protocol could make it more difficult for weddings to book at the venue, shifting to a first right of use for not-for-profit groups, and putting a moratorium on new private bookings until March 31.
That news has upset some would-be brides and grooms, many of whom come from all over the Lower Mainland and beyond to get married at the picturesque locale.
In an email to the Leader, Mani Dhaliwal said she and her fiancé met with Kirkland House Foundation president Colin Campbell in August to discuss a wedding in 2014.
"Weddings aren't the easiest thing to plan and finding a venue that fits your childhood wedding dreams of perfection are rare," she said. "I knew instantly after the months and months of searching this was the perfect place."
But after hearing that the foundation was turning over responsibility for bookings to the Corporation and learning about the neighbourhood petition to prohibit weddings on the property, she said she felt like someone had "pulled the carpet right out from under me."
Kuntz said the report and recommendations to council were vetted by Delta's parks, recreation and culture commission and shifting the focus to heritage and community recreation programs are more in keeping with the original purpose for the Harris Barn.
"We didn't really build it as a wedding venue. The reality is it's always going to be used to some degree as a social place, but there's lots of opportunity for us to use the barn in many other ways."
Kuntz said that weddings won't cease to happen there but that the selection process will be a little more careful.
The Corporation will manage bookings for both the heritage Kirkland House and the Harris Barn, though the foundation will continue to maintain the grounds and facilities.