Changes considered for winery
Published 7:35 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2018
A Troup County vineyard and winery has outgrown initial estimates and is asking that a self-imposed visitor limit be lifted.
River Bend Vineyard & Winery has been in operation in West Point for six years, and Donald Hughes, the owner, said that the operation has grown beyond the initial estimate of 75 visitors. In fact, he admitted that for a recent event more than 10 times that number showed up, despite only advertising the event on Facebook.
The Troup County Board of Commissioners heard a request to make changes to the current special use permit to allow for more visitors, but the number of visitors and any additional conditions were not agreed on at the meeting.
The commission agreed to vote on changes to the permit on May 8 after Hughes and his neighbors have had the opportunity to discuss the matter and the commissioners have had more time to review it.
“It is never going to go late into the evening, and we are going to monitor noise levels,” Hughes said. “The problem is we’ve become popular.”
Hughes said that wine from his winery will be featured at Great Wolf Georgia, so the popularity will likely grow. Under the current conditions of the permit, that growth would be unlawful.
However, any concerns from neighbors will need to be addressed in the update as well.
“The winery is an excellent venue, but we do hear the noise of the music, and we hear the noise of the helicopter,” said Kerry Franks, who owns property on Adams Road. “The music is not that big a deal, but the helicopter drives us crazy.”
Franks also said the lack of enforcement of the set numbers concerned him, but he admitted that he had never reported when the winery had too many visitors because he did not feel like it was his place to complain. Hughes offered to discontinue the helicopter rides.
Another neighbor said he felt that he had been misled on what types of events would be hosted at the winery and worried about the number of visitors.
“He described the events as weddings, receptions, anniversaries and reunions and meetings [when applying for the special use permit],” said Reed Wallace, a resident of Adams Road. “What has happened is, nobody gets married on Sundays, but on Sunday afternoons from time to time — not every Sunday — he has events which he sponsors. Nobody is renting his place or paying to use the place. He is sponsoring the party.”
The staff recommendation was to limit the number of large events and to consider certain conditions for those events.
“If he anticipates these events being over 300, we recommend they be limited to four [events] a year,” said Tracie Hadaway, the county planner. “When he does anticipate these large events, then he needs to abide by the special event ordinance.”
The special event ordinance requires the owner to work with the health department, the fire marshal, the zoning administrator and the sheriff’s office in order to ensure the safety and well-being of visitors.
The planning commission recommended the removal of the condition of the number of visitors to the location by a vote of five to two.
The Troup County Board of Commissioners will vote on the permit on May 8.
River Bend Vineyard & Winery is located at 692 Adams Road. For more information on the winery, visit Riverbendvineyard.com.