Following the Critical Area Commission's Wednesday ruling to approve updates to the county's critical area regulations, the Stoney's banquet facility in Broomes Island will be able to apply for the variances and permits necessary to hold events on the property.
But the decision may be too little, too late for a number of engaged couples who have weddings booked for the site over the next couple months. The facility will not receive its variances until a Board of Appeals hearing in May, and the law requires that the county wait at least 30 days after a variance is granted to issue any permits. The Calvert County Planning Commission must also approve the facility's site plan and any construction must be inspected before a final use and occupancy permit is granted, according to a timeline provided by the county.
Phil and Jeannie Stone, owners of the facility and the neighboring Stoney's Seafood House, were first issued a violation notice in June 2008 for developing the site without necessary permits. When development and use of the property continued, a series of citations and injunctions followed until the Board of Appeals issued a cease and desist order last September, according to the timeline. That order is still in effect.
Jeannie Stone spoke at Tuesday's Calvert County Board of County Commissioners meeting, along with a number of community supporters and heartbroken patrons, all of whom pleaded for the commissioners' help. Board President Wilson Parran (D) prefaced the public comments by saying the commissioners had no authority to make any decision on the matter.
Anastasia Wieroniey of Dunkirk was the first to address the commissioners. Wieroniey and her fiance signed a contract last August to have their wedding at the facility on May 22. They have already paid for the wedding's linens, photographer, DJ, wedding dress and tuxedos and booked their honeymoon. They were not notified by the facility's staff of any problems or violations until March 31.
Wieroniey choked through her tearful comments, lamenting the fact that in all likelihood she will not get her wedding as she "planned for it, paid for it, dreamed of it."
Jeannie Stone, who has appeared at several public meetings on the updates to voice her concerns, said she had been working to get approval for the site since 2003 and thought she had received the necessary variances and had agreed to pay a $40,000 fee to mitigate any violations.
"I would never have booked anybody's wedding if I knew this was going to happen," Jeannie Stone said. "I try very hard to be a good person and a good business person in the community."