Bill aims to preserve historic barns

Measure would exempt barns from some codes
Bill aims to preserve historic barns

Historic barns have become popular as sites for weddings and special events, but some barn owners say state regulations have gotten in the way of them being opened as event spaces.

Curt Timlin bought a property between Belmont and Platteville to help house some equipment for other businesses. A 1950s barn on the property is used to house milking stalls and hay bales. He says it needed some love when he bought it, but he was amazed at it’s stability.

“It’s withstood the test of time,” Timlin said.

Then he realized it might be a good spot to have a party.

“We had a group, Wisconsin Badger Camp, that I do a lot of volunteer work with and we wanted to do a hog roast and barn dance with them,” Timlin said. “I said it would be a great fundraiser, but consequently, we had to clean up the barn.”

A new roof and scrubbed floorboards later, he had more fundraiser requests.

“And from then people started requesting ‘Can I do a wedding there?'” Timlin said.

He decided to formalize the business as “The BARn,” but then the state stepped in with a problem.

“We were served orders that we couldn’t use our barn anymore because we wouldn’t put an elevator or sprinkler systems in,” Timlin said. “As you can see, it’s pretty much in its raw stage and that’s the way we’d like to keep it.”

The cost would have been $250,000-$300,000 to add the features. So instead, he created “The Coop,” an outdoor tent and an attached bar. That left the barn as a recreation area for his family inside, but a photo opportunity outside for his events.

“It’s a very expensive backdrop, but it’s a popular backdrop,” Timlin said. “It’s kind of a shame that we put all the work into it and we can’t utilize it.”

Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, agrees and has proposed a bill to exempt historic barns that would be used for seasonal events from some parts of the building code.

“Our goal was to make sure that the barns are still safe but not overkill it to the point where it’s cost prohibative for the owner to operate any type of business in it,” Tranel said.

The bill would only apply to barns built before 1965 and they would still have to meet all electrical codes, have fire alarms and be ADA compliant.

Timlin says he’d use his old barn for wedding ceremonies if he could and would make sure the building is safe.

But in the meantime, he’ll keep using history as a backdrop.

“If it ever comes to be that we can use it again, it’s an even better situation,” Timlin said.

Tranel plans to formally introduce the bill next week.