Legislation that would make it easier for farmers to rent out barns and other on-farm buildings for weddings and similar social events has cleared its first hurdle in the General Assembly.
The bill would exempt certain agricultural buildings that are used occasionally for weddings or other social events from some parts of the Uniform Construction Code, as long as other safety conditions are met. The exemption would apply only to existing structures, not new construction.
With more people wanting to connect with agriculture and hold events in rustic settings, wedding barns can be a great option for farms to diversify and bring in additional revenue to supplement farm income. However, some municipal governments have required farms that want to host events to retrofit historic barns and agricultural buildings to meet the entirety of the construction code, which can be cost prohibitive, especially if a sprinkler system is required.
The legislation would allow farms to avoid having to install a sprinkler system in existing buildings if they meet certain safety requirements. Those include: ensuring electrical wiring is up to date, ensuring there are sufficient and operational smoke detectors and portable fire extinguishers on site, prohibiting smoking and open flames (except for food-warming trays), and ensuring there are multiple ways to exit the building safely in an emergency.
The bill is based on agreements that some farmers have reached with local officials in their municipalities and would establish a statewide standard that makes it easier for farms throughout the commonwealth to host events safely.