Final change strengthens equine bill, Cross Creek moves on
Before sending it to the governor’s desk for her signature, state lawmakers June 17 strengthened a bill designed to help Union County horse farms. The North Carolina House added language to House Bill 329, eliminating the requirement for farms to upgrade their buildings to meet the commercial code if they plan to hold commercial events of more than 50 people.
With that bill set to be signed, farmers like Wingate’s Jay Brown said they’re thankful things can get back to normal. Brown saw his Cross Creek Arena, 1916 McIntyre Road, shut down in January for not following the state’s 2009 commercial building code amendments. He challenged the county’s decision, continuing to hold events and pointing out his arena was built according to code in 2007. The state law for such buildings, signed in 2009, required all farm buildings that hold events with at least 10 people to follow the commercial code. That meant adding a sprinkler system, as well as fire alarms and requiring some events to have a special use permit.
“That frees me up totally,” Brown said of the bill. “The only thing we’ll have to do is get our bleachers inspected for safety every year, but that’s no problem.”
The revised bill calls for such buildings to only be subject to a yearly safety inspection by the appropriate city or county building inspector. Grandstands and bleachers like those in Cross Creek have to be inspected, as well as ensuring the structure is in compliance with the codes in place when it was built. In Cross Creek’s case, that means 2007, so the county would have no basis to cite the owner or demand the property be shut down.
Other farmers said the original citations didn’t make sense, questioning why the county only cited one property, Cross Creek, since the law took effect in 2009.
“Here they go, telling a man who has dirt floors in his building he needs a sprinkler system,” Marshville farmer Reid Phifer said. “(The bill) is definitely a step in the right direction. I highly commend (Rep. Craig) Horn and (Sen. Tommy) Tucker for getting it passed.”
The problem for Brown is the bill comes too late to save this year’s set of events at Cross Creek. Once the county shut down the property this winter, he lost 12 events which had been booked through March. As the year continued, people kept telling Brown they couldn’t take the chance of booking their event at Cross Creek, afraid the county would come in and shut the project down during or before it started. In such cases, the organizers said they couldn’t afford to risk having to refund patrons.
“There’s no way to get on anybody’s schedule now unless they have a venue cancel at the last minute,” Brown said. “It does look like we’re back on track for next year, though.”
Brown is holding a youth rodeo June 24 and 25 for a special needs group, but beyond that, doesn’t have anything booked.
Cross Creek moving forward
With the state law problem addressed, Brown said he’s done fighting with the county. Nothing further has happened since Brown got the letter stating he was holding more events than allowed without a special use permit. The county said they got a verbal complaint about the events, but couldn’t state who filed it, as the complaint was anonymous.
“I haven’t heard anything from the county and I’m moving on,” Brown said. “They can just stick their foot in it and leave me alone.”