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Draft ordinance sets limits for farm winery events
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Aaron Richardson | Monday, September 12, 2016 at 7:40 p.m.

Albemarle County staff on Tuesday will present a list of proposed rules that would limit which farm wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries could host on-site events.

A draft county ordinance requires that farm alcohol producers who want to host events have at least five planted acres of crops that will go into their products, have on-site bottling and fermentation and a tasting room with regular hours.

The ordinance also would increase the setback for parking, tents and port-a-johns to 125 feet from property lines on all sides. Current setbacks are 75 feet in front, 25 feet on each side and 35 feet in the rear.

Thirty-two farm wineries and three cideries in Albemarle that already hold valid licenses from Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control would be grandfathered from all provisions of the ordinance, except for the setbacks for tents and port-a-johns.

David King, owner of King Family Vineyard in Crozet and chairman of the Virginia Wine Board, said he is happy with the proposed rules.

“Generally, at this stage, from what I understand from the staff report and what I have heard at the meetings, it seems … we have met in the middle,” he said. “We have come up with suggestions that, on their face, were the starting point that the [Monticello Wine Trail board] hoped the staff would look at.”

Staff originally proposed a one-acre threshold for on-site fruit and grain production, but county planning commissioners and supervisors in June asked that the standard be raised.

Virginia ABC grants such licenses in two classes, and allows wineries to distribute their products to in-state and out-of-state wholesalers, and allows the winery to sell its products at retail at up to five businesses.

Class A licensees must produce 51 percent of the fruit that goes into their production on-premises. Class B licenses are only granted to operations that have held a Class A license for seven years or more, and require that 75 percent of fruit come from in-state producers.

The rules, according to a county staff report, are designed to prevent businesses with little connection to agriculture from obtaining and ABC license specifically to host events.

Rural area residents have complained in recent years that wedding venues produce excess noise, traffic and road hazards by attracting large crowds to roads designed for lighter traffic loads.

Not included in the draft ordinance, but listed for discussion Tuesday night, are four further rules that would put tighter controls on events.

County staff recommended the ordinance be amended to include a 10 p.m. curfew on outdoor amplified music, a traffic plan for events of 200 people or more and that farm operations hosting events notify their neighbors and provide an on-site point of contact.

Jeff Sanders, owner of Glass House Winery and a member of the Monticello Wine Trail board, said he supports the rules in the draft ordinance, but not the rules listed for discussion.

“A lot of the big issues were cleaned up between the last meetings and this draft,” he said. “[Staff] have put some new items on the table — those concern us — but we don’t know how those are going to turn out.”

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said residents of her White Hall District are hoping the four additional rules make the final ordinance.

“[The proposed rules] are an excellent first step in defining what a farm winery operation should be,” she said. “The neighbors have wanted those four items included that were not quite brought forward in this version. I think it will be important to keep looking at those things.”

The Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building-McIntire.

 

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