Panel passes Ward bill on wedding venues

From Mirror staff reports

HARRISBURG — The Senate Labor and Industry Committee approved a bill last week that would set safety standards for barns and other agricultural buildings that are repurposed for weddings and other social events.

Senate Bill 453, sponsored by Sen. Judy Ward, R-Hollidaysburg, would allow farmers to apply for an annual exemption to certain costly requirements that are included in the state’s Uniform Construction Code for buildings that host weddings, receptions and similar events.

Family farms face significant challenges and difficulties in keeping their operations profitable and preserving their farms for the next generation.

Farm­ers are looking to supplement their income by offering agritainment or agritourism activities on their land. However, current regulations require venues that host these events to meet costly building code standards, Ward said.

“Several farmers in my district have raised concerns about being unable to legally host weddings and other special events due to the fact that they don’t have sprinkler systems and other costly and onerous safety features that could cost tens of thousands of dollars to install,” Ward said. “We need to make sure state law strikes a responsible balance between the safety of guests and financial costs to the farmers who want to host these events.”

Ward’s bill would still require repurposed agricultural buildings to meet a number of safety standards, including the availability of functioning smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and signage indicating all external entrances in case of a fire. Owners would be required to carry liability insurance, and smoking and all open flames would be prohibited.

Senate Bill 453 was sent to the full Senate for consideration.

The bill is supported by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

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