Couple ends up not developing wedding barn venue after winning … – Sharonherald

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WILMINGTON TOWNSHIP, Lawrence County – In March 2019, Richard and Jody Wimer won a costly three-year legal battle against Wilmington Township to develop a $2.2-million wedding barn, yet never went forth with their plans.

Opposed by township supervisors and a few neighbors, the Wimers instead funneled their resources into their Volant venue, yet continued to make the 3538 state Route 956 property on the edge of New Wilmington their home.

“We had many discussions with each other and what would it be like knowing the township government didn’t want it and the neighbors will be horrified,” said Jody, 55. “Someone will be making trouble, looking over our shoulders.”

“It all worked out fine,” Richard, 56, added.

The couple in 2016 purchased the Route 956 property for their home with plans to turn a barn into a wedding venue. The property included an old rail bed along the Neshannock Creek, which Jody said made for a perfect backdrop for wedding photos.

“We love our property,” she said. “It’s so picturesque and has so many possibilities. The previous owner had the foresight to purchase the abandoned rail bed.”

Before buying the property, Richard said he received a verbal blessing from township Supervisors Dave McConahy and Tracey Deal; McConahy has since passed away, and attempts to reach Deal were unsuccessful Friday.

When the Wimers formally proposed to open the Wilmington Township venue, township supervisors amended the municipality’s zoning ordinance.

The change would limit the Wimers to 12 events a year with a maximum of 300 guests per event.

The Wimers challenged the zoning ordinance and proposed an unlimited number of events while limiting attendance at each to 300 guests.

When supervisors denied the proposal, the Wimers appealed to the Lawrence County Common Pleas Court, which ruled in their favor. The township appealed to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which affirmed the lower court’s ruling, turning into a victory for the Wimers.

That was in March 2019.

“We kind of sat back and said ‘Let’s take a couple months and lick our wounds,’” Richard said.

“It was like starting from scratch,” Jody added. “We had to go back to all the bids. They were no longer valid.”

Construction costs for the Wilmington Township venue had increased by at least 30 percent.

In the catering and wedding business for nearly 30 years, the Wimers also own Farm at Willowbrook, founded in April 2011 as Rustic Acres Farm along Route 19 near Volant in Washington Township.

The Wimers have operated it as a wedding venue since 2014 and in the fall of 2021 purchased their partners’ share for $1.15 million, made $800,000 in renovations and renamed it Willowbrook. This year, they will host 54 weddings; 56 are booked for next year.

Most are destination weddings, with couples coming from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Twenty-four guests can stay on the premises in a farmhouse, bunkhouse and cottage. Most stay at nearby hotels.

“I can assure you if you were to drive to the Grove City outlet mall, they will tell you how much they love it,” Jody said. “They get so much business from us.”

The Wimers are not bitter, just somewhat disappointed with the money spent to fight Wilmington Township.

“We are not negative people,” Jody said. “When there’s an obstacle, we overcome it.”

Wilmington Township Supervisor Dan Kennedy, who was not on the board at the time, said he believes the wedding venue would’ve made a nice addition to the township.

“It would’ve been great for New Wilmington, but they never gave them a chance,” said Kennedy, who was elected a Lawrence County commissioner on Tuesday. “It’s unfortunate.”

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