Neighbors raise fuss over winery application
Commissioners are committed to wading into what some of them called a “can of worms” when they again take up a measure to expand the county’s agri-tourism ordinance to include smaller parcels in rural residential zones, not just true farm tracts in exclusive farm use zones. They may or may not also have to wade into a fuss being raised on Walnut Hill by a winery proposal submitted by Edward Fus, owner of the Three Angels Vineyard on Three Trees Lane.
Fus owns almost five acres in an AF-10 zone — agriculture/forestry, 10-acre minimum.
He is looking to construct a combination winery and dwelling on the tract, with the basement featuring equipment to produce and store wine, the ground floor a kitchen, restrooms and tasting facility, and the upper floor family living quarters. He is also seeking permission to host three tasting events, each lasting for up to three days.
In the application, he goes on to seek authorization to begin the events-hosting prior to construction of the winery, using vineyard land equipped with a pair of bathrooms for worker use, one of them handicapped-accessible. However, the staff has ruled that out, saying, “Tasting events are not allowed on undeveloped property in the AF-10 zone.”
Except for the bathrooms, the only structures on the property right now are a greenhouse and wooden storage shed, and the staff considers that undeveloped.
Fus said he is considering seeking a continuance on the hearing, giving him more time to work with neighbors on concerns they have aired. “I’d rather work with the neighbors than work against them,” he said.
As of Monday afternoon, he had not yet made a decision.
Some neighbors are opposed the winery, some to the events and some to both. Most wineries hosting such events are sited on larger parcels zoned for exclusive farm use, they note.
To complicate matters, use of his site, located at the end of a gravel road, is subject to a set of covenants, conditions and restrictions, known in the real estate realm as CC&Rs. Opponents say his plans are in flagrant violation.
The staff said CC&Rs constitute civil agreements between neighboring property owners, thus are not enforceable by the county. However, it said the planning commission might want to make any approval subject to legal resolution of that issue.
Fus is currently producing his wine, carrying the Angel Vine brand name, at Carlton Cellars, a custom-crush facility. He said he would like to develop his own facility on the Amity area tract in question.