RIVER FALLS — Plans for a wedding and event venue east of downtown came to a halt after failing to get approval from a majority of City Council members.

Adam and Jennifer Wennerberg looked to build a 6,000-square-foot metal event barn off County Highway M in the town of Kinnickinnic. The proposal required a special-use permit from the city of River Falls because the site is zoned for agricultural use.

The split vote July 14 ended up 4-4 following more than an hour of public comment and council discussion. A simple majority was needed to approve the permit.

“I’m very hesitant about this,” Council member Hal Watson said, taking issue with the appropriateness of the building in an agricultural area.

Other council members voiced concern about noise coming from the venue.

Though an event barn is not specifically permitted in the Agricultural Zoning District, golf courses and country clubs are allowed with a special-use permit. The proposal would have similar capacity, hours of operation and noise impacts as a golf course while using far less space — making it more consistent with the agricultural zone’s purpose to preserve farmland, according to a staff report.

Three neighbors spoke in-person and one called in to comment during the public hearing. A top concern was increased traffic, including the possibility of drunken driving by wedding attendees. A neighbor who farms directly south of the site also said he was worried how paved parking spaces would impact stormwater runoff.

Jennifer Wennerberg, who is a wedding photographer, said guests would be encouraged to use shuttles to and from the venue, especially if alcohol will be served. Traffic increases also would be limited to “spikes” before and after events.

The site falls within a joint Urban Reserve Area established by the city of River Falls and town of Kinnickinnic, meaning it is governed by the city’s planning and zoning requirements.

The estimated $700,000 heated event barn would have featured a bar, restrooms and 87 paved parking spaces. It was planned to open in December 2020.