Last week we had a look at Fauquier County’s zoning regulations for wineries. This week let’s examine Albemarle County, which for some reason explicitly bans restaurants and helicopters rides. Helicopter rides? Really? Who knew the threat of reckless helicopter tourism was looming out there? Could the inclusion of this prohibition been a sly swipe at Patricia Kluge, whose former home Albemarle House includes a heliport. None of the winery owners we know own helicopters. Perhaps it was a move to appease the owners of the amazing historic properties that blanket the county who don’t want tourists looking down at their houses from on high.
One less than perfect aspect of the Albemarle ordinance involves the problem of noise generated by farm winery events and its effects on the neighbors. A recent kerfuffle focused on that very problem — more specifically, noise from weddings, where amplified music is common, if not the norm. After much hand wringing, testimony and debate, in March 2011 the Board of Supervisors revised the law and settled on a measurable decibel standard rather than the previously used “audibility standard”, which they believed to be more objective (the “audibility standard” prohibited noise that traveled more than 100 feet from the property line). Now the ordinance specifies that noise (music) that is louder than 60 decibels during the day and 55 decibels at night would be a civil violation and would carry a fine. The measuring procedure is spelled out in the code.
Special Use Permit
Those events that have more than 200 people in attendance calls for obtaining a Special Use Permit. Obtaining a Special Use Permit sounds simple, but it really isn’t. The application receives detailed analysis by the staff in the zoning department, and at least one public hearing will be held by the Planning Commission and one by the Board of Supervisors. The fee for public notice is estimated by staff to be between $350 and $450 per hearing. The application fee for a new Special Use Permit is $2,000. And of course, there is no guarantee that the request will be granted, so that wedding party of 500 might want to find another venue. This procedural hurdle no doubt puts a limit on large events, which in the scheme of things probably isn’t that awful.
Passed in May 2010, Albemarle’s farm winery ordinance could well serve as a model for other Virginia counties. It’s a fine piece of work, crafted with direct input from the Virginia Wine Council — they spent two years on it. It strikes a nice balance with the needs of the wineries with protecting the quality of life of its residents.
But is this ordinance really “the best” for the industry? It certainly suits the business of wine in Virginia, and it is shaped by what Virginians expect of a farm winery. At the time of its passage the Virginia Wine Council stated: “This meeting represented an end to nearly two years of work by the VWC to shape a farm winery zoning ordinance that strikes a balance between the county’s need to protect the welfare of its citizens and farm wineries’ need for regulatory certainty and sustained economic viability. Throughout work sessions and planning commission meetings, the VWC has consistently argued that the best way to preserve the rural character of Albemarle County and counties like it is to ensure that agriculture is profitable.”
Whether that is the way we want the industry to go is a different question. Is everything that a winery does — such as selling corkscrews and mason jars mounted on stems and sparkly T-shirts for wine divas — is that “agriculture”? As we discussed in an earlier post, that overly broad definition may backfire someday. But for now, linking “agriculture” and “agritourism” is working. Too bad about the county ban on wineries having restaurants, because the pickings are pretty slim in some parts of the Commonwealth. We’d love to see more wineries emulate the quality and success of that spectacular exception — Barboursville Vineyards’ Palladio Restaurant.
5.1.25 FARM WINERY
Each farm winery shall be subject to the following:
a. Uses permitted.
The following uses, events and activities (hereinafter, collectively, “uses”) are permitted at a farm winery:
1. The production and harvesting of fruit and other agricultural products and the manufacturing of wine including, but not limited to, activities related to the production of the agricultural products used in wine, including but not limited to, growing, planting and harvesting the agricultural products and the use of equipment for those activities.
2. The sale, tasting, including barrel tastings, or consumption of wine within the normal course of business of the farm winery.
3. The direct sale and shipment of wine by common carrier to consumers in accordance with Title 4.1 of the Virginia Code and the regulations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.
4. The sale and shipment of wine to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, licensed wholesalers, and out-of-state purchasers in accordance with Title 4.1 of the Virginia Code, regulations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and federal law.
5. The storage, warehousing, and wholesaling of wine in accordance with Title 4.1 of the Virginia Code, regulations of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and federal law
6. Private personal gatherings of a farm winery owner who resides at the farm winery or on property adjacent thereto that is owned or controlled by the owner, provided that wine is not sold or marketed and for which no consideration is received by the farm winery or its agents.
b. Agritourism uses or wine sales related uses. The following uses are permitted at a farm winery, provided they are related to agritourism or wine sales:
1. Exhibits, museums, and historical segments related to wine or to the farm winery.
2. Farm winery events at which not more than two hundred (200) persons are in attendance at any time.
3. Guest winemakers and trade accommodations of invited guests at a farm winery owner’s private residence at the farm winery.
5. Kitchen and catering activities related to a use at the farm winery.
6. Picnics, either self-provided or available to be purchased at the farm winery.
7. Providing finger foods, soups and appetizers for visitors.
8. Sale of wine-related items that are incidental to the sale of wine including, but not limited to the sale of incidental gifts such as cork screws, wine glasses, and t-shirts.
9. Tours of the farm winery, including the vineyard.
10. Weddings and wedding receptions at which not more than two hundred (200) persons are in attendance at any time.
11. Other uses not expressly authorized that are agritourism uses or are wine sales related uses, which are determined by the zoning administrator to be usual and customary uses at farm wineries throughout the Commonwealth, which do not create a substantial impact on the health, safety or welfare of the public, and at which not more than two hundred (200) persons are in attendance at any time.
c. Agritourism uses or wine sales related uses; more than 200 person at any time; special use permit.
The following uses, at which more than two hundred (200) persons will be allowed to attend at any time, are permitted at a farm winery with a special use permit, provided they are related to agritourism or wine sales:
1. Farm winery events.
2. Weddings and wedding receptions.
3. Other uses not expressly authorized that are agritourism uses or wine sales related uses which are determined by the zoning administrator to be usual and customary uses at farm wineries throughout the Commonwealth.
d. Information and sketch plan to be submitted with application for a special use permit.
In addition to any information required to be submitted with an application for a special use permit under section 31.6.2, each application for one or more uses authorized under section 5.1.25(c) shall include the following:
1. Information. Information pertaining to the following: (i) the proposed uses; (ii) the maximum number of persons who will attend each use at any given time; (iii) the frequency and duration of the uses; (iv) the provision of on-site parking; (v) the location, height and lumens of outdoor lighting for each use; and (vi) the location of any stage, structure or other place where music will be performed.
2. Sketch plan. A sketch plan, which shall be a schematic drawing of the site with notes in a form and of a scale approved by the director of planning depicting: (i) all structures that would be used for the uses; (ii) how access, on-site parking, outdoor lighting, signage and minimum yards will be provided in compliance with this chapter; and (iii) how potential adverse impacts to adjoining property will be mitigated so they are not substantial.
e. Sound from outdoor amplified music.
Sound generated by outdoor amplified music shall be subject to section 4.18, shall not exceed the applicable maximum sound levels in section 4.18.04, and shall not be deemed to be an exempt sound under section 4.18.05(J).
f. Yards. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the minimum front, side and rear yard requirements in section 10.4 shall apply to all primary and accessory structures established after May 5, 2010 and to all tents, off-street parking areas and portable toilets used in whole or in part to serve any use permitted at a farm winery, provided that the zoning administrator may reduce the minimum required yard upon finding that: (i) there is no detriment to the abutting lot; (ii) there is no harm to the public health, safety or welfare; and (iii) written consent has been provided by the owner of the abutting lot consenting to the reduction.
g. Uses prohibited. The following uses are prohibited:
2. Helicopter rides.
(§ 5.1.25, 12-16-81, 1-1-84; Ord. 98-20(1), 4-1-98; Ord. 01-18(6), 10-3-01; Ord. 10-18(3), 5-5-10; Ord. 11-