By Alyssa Schnugg
The attorney representing the owner of Rooster’s Barn Cabin argued Monday night before the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors that someone renting a structure that could serve as a residence was no more a commercial business than someone renting out their home on a football game weekend.
The supervisors did not agree.
Attorney Mitchell Driskell, representing Scott Michael, who owns the cabin and Rooster’s House of Blues on the Square, was attempting to convince the Board to overturn an earlier decision by the Lafayette County Planning Department to deny a conditional-use permit for property located on County Road 100 that is zoned A2, or Agricultural.
County Building Official Joel Hollowell testified before the Board for almost an hour, claiming he had spoken to Michael earlier this year and presented him with a list of things to do to the property to make it suitable to receive a conditional-use permit. Most of the suggestions and requirements involved fire suppression, sewers and parking upgrades. He also presented videos and audio of large parties being held on the property.
Driskell said Michael is willing to make the required changes, but only with a guarantee that the conditional-use permit would be granted, as some of the upgrades and changes are costly. However, he mostly argued that the property is not a commercial business and therefore, should not be required to have the permit.
Michael has a contract where he leases the barn mostly to fraternities from the University of Mississippi for $5,000 a month. Driskell said the barn could be used as a residence and Michael only does what many Lafayette County residents due – rent out a “home.”
“That is not a commercial business,” Driskell argued. “To say that it is, would say everyone who rents out their homes on weekends is a commercial business.”
Driskell said those who lease the property hold invite-only parties that are not open to the public and no cash exchanges hands during the events.
Hollowell referenced a 2017 story on Hottytoddy.com that called the Barn “Oxford’s Newest Event Venue,” however, Michael claims the story was “fake news.”
Hollowell said Michael purchased the property under an LLC that was listed on the Secretary of State’s Office as “all other forms of amusement and recreational facilities” under “Use.”
Several neighbors attended the meeting and said the loud, often vulgar, music could be heard while inside their homes and even 2 to 3 miles away. They said the traffic and litter was also a regular problem.
While Hollowell said the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department has responded to several noise complaints at the property, Driskell pointed out that no citations or arrests have been made in connection with any events on the property.
Supervisor Mike Roberts said he was in favor of the university students having a safe place to go; however, he could not understand Michael’s resistance in making the suggested changes that included safety upgrades like having fire extinguishers.
The board voted to deny the appeal and uphold the Planning Commission’s decision to deny the conditional-use permit and also voted to deny a request to throw out two citations issued by the Planning Department against Michael for violating county zoning laws.