The Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners will decide Tuesday whether to approve plans for Weber Hall, a proposed small events venue in the Mancos Valley that has drawn significant opposition from neighbors and ignited a fierce debate over land use regulations in the largely agricultural region.
For prospective owners Jeremy and Silvina Moore, the outcome will mark a year of navigating bureaucratic hurdles and revising their business plans to address backlash to the proposal to hold weddings and other events under 60 people at their remodeled residence minutes down Road G.
Adding to the suspense, Commissioner Gerald Koppenhafer, who lives by the Moores, has recused himself from the decision. And with only two commissioners voting on the application, a split decision would effectively doom the plans for Weber Hall, according to Jeremy Moore.
“So much of the pushback that we've gotten is because people have been so misinformed about our operations. There's just a lot of inaccurate accusations going around and we don’t think they are true,” he told The Journal. “Because of the mitigations that we have come up with, we really do think that it has addressed the concerns that people have.”
At the center of the Weber Hall dispute is Montezuma County’s land use code. Opponents argue that the combination of high-impact and special use permits that the Moores are seeking violate local ordinances. And they claim that approving the business would set a precedent and lead other prospective owners to employ a similar tactic to open operations in the area.
“I’ve read the land use code from front to back multiple times, and this does not fit it. I don’t know how they’re even considering it and how it’s passing through,” Mountain Roots Produce co-owner Mike Nolan, who opposes the Weber Hall plans, previously said.
While the Moores acknowledge mistakes in the application process, including originally attempting to rezone the land from agricultural to a commercial business, they denied that they attempted to circumvent the code. And they are confident that the revised strategy complies with the local land use code, given that “retreat/guest ranch” is one of the options allowed for a special use permit. The plans have also already been approved twice by the planning and zoning panel.
“In hindsight, if we had to do it again, we would have gone and gotten to know everybody well before we started this,” said Jeremy Moore. But “as much as I think that they had valid concerns in the beginning, it also became this thing where we were dehumanized.”
And ultimately, Jeremy and Silvina Moore hope to provide an event space they say is desperately needed.
“If you talk to anybody that works in the wedding industry in Montezuma County, they don't work in Montezuma County. They work outside the county,” said Jeremy Moore. “The venues that we have in town, they just don't have the attention to detail that people want.”
Born and raised in Cortez, Jeremy met Silvina, who hails from Atlanta, seven years ago when both of them lived in Denver.
It wasn’t long before they decided to hit the road together. But while traveling through Mexico in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Worried that the border would be closed, they rushed back from Sayulita to Southwest Colorado, where Jeremy Moore’s family still lived.
They bought the property for Weber Hall in 2020 and got to work renovating the structure situated next to a former Mormon community hall from the early 1900s. But after their own small wedding in August 2021 at the remodeled space, they saw an opportunity to share it with others.
Soon, the plans for Weber Hall were launched. After filling out a permit application through Montezuma County’s online portal, they thought they were set. Then the first public hearing for the proposal was held in November 2021. Opponents showed up in droves, kick-starting a yearlong debate about the future of Weber Hall.
“We didn't know the proper way to do it,” said Jeremy. But “there were a lot of very angry people.”
After the meeting, the Moores shifted into damage control, and they haven’t stopped since. They soon hired a Durango-based consultant to help them with the land use permit application. They also went by nearby residents to apologize and discuss the proposal. But after inviting neighbors over to try to clamp down the blossoming conflict, it became clear to that the opposition was steadfast.
“We imagined that everybody would come over and break bread,” said Jeremy Moore. “That was just not the case.”
Since then, the opposition has continued unabated.
Opponents charged that the venue would disrupt a quiet area of Weber Canyon, increase traffic on relatively low-volume country roads, and result in inebriated drivers trying to navigate the windy route back to town.
Alongside revising their application to instead seek a combination of high-impact and special use permits, the Moores have put in new policies to try to mitigate concerns from neighbors. If alcohol is served during weddings on the property, for example, attendees will be required to take a shuttle to and from the venue.
“We're not going to have people drinking and driving back into town,” said Silvina Moore.
They also conducted a noise study, hiring professionals to gauge the sound of music coming from the venue to ensure it fell under the 55-decibel limit.
“Not only was it under that, but it was well under that,” said Jeremy Moore.
And while the Moores agree with opponents that any large-scale wedding venue should be situated farther outside of town, they believe the capacity limits at Weber Hall, along with other mitigation efforts, will prevent disruptions for neighbors.
“If there was an HOA before we bought it, we wouldn't have bought it. But (opponents) are certainly acting like there is one,” said Silvina Moore.
Still, the Moores also acknowledge some missteps along the way, including the decision to hold two test events earlier in the year, which opponents are now using as evidence to try to prove illegal operations.
And they recognize that, should Weber Hall get approved, they believe they’ll be under the constant gaze of neighbors scouring for wrongdoing that could get them in trouble with the county.
“People will be very much on the lookout, you know, they're going to be watching us, making sure that we stay in line,” said Jeremy Moore. “That is a good thing, as long as everybody's nice about it.”
And ultimately, the opposition has done nothing to waver their dream of opening Weber hall for small weddings, creative workshops and other small events.
“I wish we were not so naive,” said Silvina Moore. But, “we're just trying to share this space.”
Correction: This article was corrected to reference the right governing land use code and the location of Weber Hall.