ZTA 12-03 (Wineries)

ZTA 12-03: A zoning text amendment which would change the definition of a winery and allow it to have 6 events” by right” every year. Currently, a winery is permitted by right in most agricultural zones if limited to two public events per year. This ZTA would amend the definition of a winery to require at least 20 percent of the fruit used to be grown at the site. 

Winery: A facility for processing grapes or other fruit into wine for sale on site or through wholesale or retail outlets.  

SCA Position: A significant part of SCA’s mission is to encourage agricultural activity in the AG Reserve, and we appreciate wine grape growing and wineries as appropriate activities of the AG Reserve. Having looked at the evolution of outreach events held at wineries in Virginia and California, we suggest that BEFORE the hearings proceed on this ZTA, the County hold a stakeholders meeting on this issue. We want to see grape growing and wineries in the AG Reserve, but we also want to protect the interests of surrounding neighbors and other stakeholders who might be negatively affected by large scale and frequent events promoting wineries.

Background: This ZTA, proposed by Councilmembers Elrich, Floreen and Rice, would allow processing grapes and other fruits into wine for sale or through wholesale or retail outlets. At least 20 percent of the fruit used in the winemaking process must be grown on the site of the winery. It would also allow the winery to hold 6 events a year. Unfortunately, the definition of an event is not included. SCA is concerned that “event” could be construed as every weekend in late August through late October. Presently, one local “event” unrelated to wineries goes on for five consecutive weekends in the fall. SCA proposes that the definition of event be defined and the parameters of the event be clear and enforceable. Other issues involved such as hours and  frequency of operation, noise and lighting need to be addressed. They are not addressed in this broad ZTA. SCA prefers the Special Exception Permit over “by right’ because there is a better chance of protection for all the stakeholders. To read about other considerations involved in this ZTA, such as the chance for proliferation of wineries in the AG Reserve if the “Proposed Horticulture” ZTA goes through, see the comments SCA submitted to Park and Planning.

Summary of Action: SCA submitted comments to Park and Planning Staff along with an invitation to the County to hold a meeting of all stakeholders in this issue before legislation proceeds. The Park and Planning Staff issued a report to the Planning Board recommending that the ZTA be deferred. Staff also recommends that a working group be established that includes various stakeholders. SCA testified at the Planning Board hearing on Thursday, March 22nd and at the County Council Public Hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 27th. At that hearing, the County Council delayed action on this ZTA and charged the County legal staff to lead a stakeholder’s meeting. SCA looks forward to working out a solution that helps add value to horticulture and farming while protecting the interests of all the residents of the Ag. Reserve.  If you would like to participate, please contact us at info@sugarloaf citizens.org.

County Councilmember Rice.

Council President Roger Berliner.

Sugarloaf Citizens' Association, Inc.
Linden Farm 
20900 Martinsburg Road
P.O. Box 218 
Dickerson, MD 20842

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