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Washtenaw County farmer fights to host weddings in barn

WEBSTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A Washtenaw County farmer is fighting Webster Township officials to host weddings in his barn.

Corn mazes and pumpkin patches fall under the agritourism zoning, but the township said barn weddings don't qualify.

The 300-acre farm is zoned as agricultural, but last year Ryan Nixon received a zoning violation. He sued Webster Township for the right to host weddings in his barn. 

Over the summer, a judge ruled in his favor. It's expected the township will appeal the ruling.

The family has hosted 60 weddings over the past five generations at the farm.

"Doing weddings in a barn is almost 40 percent of my income," Nixon said.

Webster Township Supervisor John Kingsley said the Zoning Board of Appeals is worried about excessive noise, lights and drunk drivers. 

"You aren't allowed to do it now, you were never allowed to do it, and therefore we aren't taking it away," Kingsley said.

In 2014, Webster Township won a similar lawsuit against Cottonwood Barn’s owners, who had restored the barn to be used as a wedding venue. It was ruled the county’s zoning regulations didn’t allow for a barn to be used as a wedding venue. The case was brought to Michigan Court of Appeals in 2016 and the state ultimately sided with the county.

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