OXFORD—A Norway man has his eye on an old farmhouse and barn with the hopes of turning the barn into a wedding barn and will meet with the Oxford Planning Board tonight to see if the project is feasible.
The Planning Board met last week on Thursday, Dec. 4, and held a workshop on Randy Rawding’s proposed project at 429 Robinson Hill Road in East Oxford. Code Enforcement Officer Rodney Smith told members that Rawding’s plans include renovating the barn to host weddings, with an average of 100 people, and wouldn’t cater the event, but hire a company to serve food and alcohol.
Rawding sent the town a letter after doing some research on how other towns deal with this kind of project in a rural area. Responses ranged from Otisfield, which would label a wedding barn as a “place of assembly” which is allowed in the rural zone, to Poland, which would allow it under the religious banner but would have it go before its Planning Board. Norway classified a similar venue on Delano Road, in a rural area, as an assembly use, but has stipulations that dictate how many people can be in the barn, depending on seating and the number of bathrooms. The proposed wedding barn in Oxford is a slightly different than Delano Road vision, as it serves food and provides lodging.
“My main intent was to help them see, ‘Hey look, everybody allows it. There’s a couple of restrictions here and there, but it’s not a big deal,’” Rawding said by phone Friday.
He added that he spoke with the Oxford Planning Board last month and members weren’t sure how to deal with his proposal. It was the same situation last week when members discussed his plan.
“He said he didn’t want to purchase the property if he couldn’t do it,” Smith said about Rawding. “I already have a couple of citizens who aren’t in favor of it.”
Longtime Planning Board member and current Chairman Walt Mosher said there isn’t anything written in Oxford’s zoning laws that says the wedding barn is allowed and nothing saying it isn’t allowed. The board agreed it was worried about a potential fire and wanted to know what the State Fire Marshal had to say about the project. Members also wondered about bathroom facilities and if there would be some installed in the barn or if portapotties would be used.
“He should bring us a plan so we can say, ‘yes,’ or ‘no,’” Planning Board member Denise Landsperg said.
“You should have a list of what you want him to do,” Smith said, adding it should include a detailed site plan and a letter from the state fire marshal.
Rawding—who isn’t a developer but a local guy interested in old farms, which he said “are getting harder and harder to find”—has been thinking about opening a wedding barn in the area for about six months. He began looking at different sites, on top of checking out existing ones to see what other people were doing with their facilities and if there’s a need for one in the area.
“They’re really romantic. It’s hard to believe we’re in a barn that had animals in it,” he said. “My daughter and her friends, it’s what they want. She says that’s what brides today want.”
Rawding isn’t even sure if the Oxford location is the ideal site now since some of the land owned by Mason Pratt—which totaled between 67 and 69 acres—has been sold. His research showed him the land has been in the hands of the Pratts since around 1830.
But if the house and barn on Robinson Hill Road work out, the farmhouse will need some attention.
“I am hoping from the income from the wedding barn it could rebuild the farm,” Rawding said. “To maintain that or rebuild it to its former glory would be really neat. Farms are kind of a dying thing and most farms can’t sustain themselves.”
The Planning Board will meet with Rawding at 7 p.m. tonight, Thursday, at the Town Office at 85 Pleasant St.