Judge bans weddings at Spiegel Farm after homeowners file suit

Published 1:56 pm Friday, July 3, 2009

On June 18, Circuit Court Judge Derham Cole issued a judgment barring any commercial activities at the farm. A lawsuit was filed by the Wendswept Plantation Homeowners Association against Spiegel, citing that Spiegel&squo;s hosting of weddings and other special events on the property violates the association&squo;s covenants that restrict the use of the property to residential or equestrian-related activities.

But Spiegel says the developer of the property said she&squo;d be protected by a clause that allows such activities as long as they are equestrian related, which she says is the theme for the weddings held on the 62-acre property. She says she was the first to buy into the development, about 14 years ago.

&dquo;I&squo;m going to do whatever I have to do to get these weddings done for these girls,&dquo; Spiegel says. &dquo;It&squo;s the most important day in their lives. If it rains, it&squo;s devastating; think about what this is doing to them two weeks before their wedding.&dquo;

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Spiegel has about 30 more weddings booked this year and some in 2010. Spiegel says she hosts about 60 weddings per year. Spiegel Farm began hosting weddings nine years ago.

Sean Cobourn, attorney for the homeowners association, says that although Spiegel began hosting weddings nine years ago, there were only a few here and there until a couple of years ago, when the business became a nuisance. Cobourn also said the judge hasn&squo;t&bsp; signed the final draft of the injunction yet in an attempt to limit the damage done to the families whose weddings are already booked. Any weddings this weekend will be allowed, but beyond that, no events can take place until a court decision later this month.

Cobourn said he was hired around last October and began discussions on the case at that time. The lawsuit was filed in February, so he says Spiegel has known since then.

&dquo;My clients truly regret that this is hurting brides,&dquo; Cobourn said.

Spiegel says shutting down her business will cause her and her sister, who helps run the business, to file bankruptcy and about 10 employees to lose their jobs.

&dquo;They&squo;ve frozen my income right now,&dquo; Spiegel says. &dquo;It&squo;s completely unfair. If they are trying to hurt me that&squo;s one thing, but to hurt the brides and their families&ellip;.&dquo;

The lawsuit claims that loud music, fireworks and traffic have diminished the value of other homes and the neighbors&squo; rights to &dquo;peaceful enjoyment.&dquo; The association&squo;s 14 members voted unanimously in October to move forward with the lawsuit after failing to reach an agreement with Spiegel. The covenant restrictions went into effect in 1995, according to the suit.

Spiegel says she has offered not to have bands play or weddings be held in the outdoor arena to cut down on noise, which would also cut down on attendance and traffic at the farm.

The court date is set for July 29 for a judge to decide if the injunction is to be made permanent. Spiegel says she is currently filing paperwork to allow weddings to continue until a decision is made. The television show &uot;Inside Edition&uot; was scheduled to interview Spiegel and about 40 brides Wednesday night. Most of the brides are future brides, Spiegel said, &dquo;fighting for their own wedding day.&dquo;