A Will County spokesman on Thursday said Paul Siegel “deliberately” avoided commercial inspections needed for The Barn at Cottonwood before the new venue was shut down this week.
Plans for late May and June weddings are in jeopardy after a temporary restraining order issued Wednesday prohibited use of The Barn at Cottonwood.
County officials said the action was needed because of weddings scheduled without the property being zoned for commercial use. It also lacks safety inspections.
County inspectors arrived at Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm on Wednesday with a search warrant and accompanied by what county officials said were five sheriff’s squad cars. Siegel said he believed nine squad cars were at the scene.
“Mr. Siegel was deliberately trying to get around a process that he knows. Mr. Siegel is a former County Board member,” said Charles Pelkie, a spokesman for the state’s attorney’s office.
Siegel served on the Will County Board from 2000 to 2004. He now is on the Lockport Township Fire Protection District board.
“If a guest has a heart attack, we don’t even know if we can get an ambulance up the street,” Pelkie said. “If the building catches on fire, we don’t know if we can get a fire truck to that property.”
Siegel called Pelkie’s claim that he deliberately avoided the zoning process “really ludicrous” because his intention is to have the building annexed to the city of Crest Hill for commercial use.
The Barn was built on the south edge of the Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm agritainment operation, which includes a garden center and other buildings used for an annual pumpkin festival.
The commercial operation lies within Crest Hill.
But the barn was built on a parcel that is unincorporated, so zoning and inspections go through Will County. The land is zoned for agriculture use.
Siegel said he got an agricultural permit to build the barn until he went through the commercial zoning process.
“We decided quite some time ago we were going to come into the city of Crest Hill,” Siegel said. “We started a process at the end of February, which should have been plenty of time to get that done.”
Crest Hill has received Siegel’s plan for annexation, but City Manager Heather McGuire said this week that the annexation, if approved, is not likely to be completed by the end of June.