The proposed text
amendment seeks to update the County’s regulations related to
farm wineries to bring them into compliance with updated Code of
Virginia provisions on Farm Wineries. Staff began working on
this amendment in late 2007, with a Board initiation of the text
amendment occurring in November 2008. The Planning Commission
held its first work session on the issue in February 2009,
holding multiple additional work sessions and public hearings
until taking action on August 27, 2009, unanimously recommending
approval of a revised draft of regulations.
The Board of
Supervisors held a work session on the winery issues on October
15, 2009. At that meeting, staff reviewed the legislative
history of farm winery regulation in the County, the Code of
Virginia provisions, and the draft regulations recommended by
the Planning Commission. An initial public hearing and
additional work session on the issue were also held by the Board
on November 12, 2009, and a second public hearing was held on
December 10, 2009.
Proposed Amendment as Recommended by the Planning Commission
By-Right Activities/Uses at Wineries
regulations set forth a list of activities permitted by-right
(as accessory uses to a farm winery). This list includes all
of those activities (i.e., production, incidental sales of wine
items, etc.) that are required to be allowed by the Code of
Tasting Room Hours
generally limits the by-right hours of a tasting room to 9:00
a.m. – 6:00 p.m., effectively defining “regular business hours”
for farm wineries. The State Code states that localities must
allow wine tasting during regular business hours, but did not
define those hours. The Planning Commission reviewed typical
closing times at wineries and found that most closed by 6:00
p.m., with occasional later hours. Because the regulations
also allow activities or events of a certain size to occur at
wineries once a week in the evening, effectively wineries could
actually, under this existing provision, keep their tasting
rooms open until 10:00 p.m. one evening a week.
Number and Size of By-Right Events Allowed
establish a level of by-right events for farm wineries.
Historically, the County has always regulated events at wineries
through the special permit and special exception process,
consistent with how the County regulates events at all other
uses in the County, including other agricultural uses. The 2007
Virginia Code update requires that the County change this
approach for farm wineries, allowing some events by-right. The
proposed regulations would continue to allow a winery to ask for
any level of events through the special exception process, but
also establishes a level of by-right events for each winery.
The proposed text amendment establishes the by-right level of
events that a winery is entitled to based upon the size of the
winery and type of road accessing the winery. The regulations
also distinguish between events occurring in the course of a
regular business day (9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) versus evening
events (6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.) and events that occur in
addition to regular tasting business as opposed to events
that occur in lieu of regular tasting business.
Category of Farm Winery
Between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
Wineries located on a parcel with at least 25 acres; and
with direct access on a Minor Collector or higher
classification street, or a functionally equivalent
street, as determined by the Zoning Administrator.
When the tasting room is also open to the public, an
unlimited number of events up to 60 people are allowed,
in addition to the ongoing tastings.
When the tasting room is closed to the general public,
an unlimited number of events up to 200 people are
allowed, plus 1 event/quarter up to 300 people and 1
event/year up to 500 people.
1 event per week up to 60 people
1 event per month up to 200 people
Wineries with at least 15 acres and, if located within a
subdivision, average lot size of all parcels in
subdivision is at least 15 acres.
When the tasting room is open to the public, an
unlimited number of activities/events up to 25 people
are allowed, in addition to the ongoing tastings.
When tasting room is closed to the general public, an
unlimited number of activities/events up to 50
people are allowed, plus 1 event/quarter up to
150 people and 1 event/year up to 250 people.
1 event per week up to 25 people
1 event per month up to 100 people
All Other Wineries
No events/activities when the tasting room is open to
the general public, in addition to the ongoing tastings.
When tasting room is closed to the general public,
unlimited number of events up to 25 people, plus 1
event/quarter up to 100 people.
1 event per week up to 25 people.
Staff would note
that most of the county’s farm wineries would fall into the
middle tier under this proposal. The timing distinctions in the
proposal are intended to address the fact that evening events
are often more impactive to neighbors (who are more likely to be
at home) and also raised heightened safety issues relative to
travel on rural roads. In addition, considering whether a
winery is open or closed for regular business during an event,
provides increased flexibility for larger events because they
are not adding concurrent impacts over the tasting events
Definitions of Wine Tasting and Winery Events
necessarily distinguishes between events and other tasting
activities because the County is allowed to regulate events but
not tasting activities. A significant challenge has been to
develop a definition that distinguishes between the two. The
proposed definitions in the current draft is:
WINE TASTING: Sampling,
by the general public, of wines. Incidental food such as cheese
and crackers, etc. may be provided along with the wine. Wine
tasting shall include special promotions such as barrel tasting
open houses and seasonal and holiday weekends with special
incidental foods and background entertainment provided that such
tastings are generally advertised and do not meet the criteria
listed for a WINE EVENT.
Events held at a Farm Winery to promote the sale of a winery’s
wine. While such events may include private weddings or other
business, social or fundraising gatherings where the Farm Winery
is allowing its facilities to be utilized, such non-wine related
events shall be subordinate to events focused on the marketing
of wine, such as wine seminars and wine dinners. An activity
shall also be considered a WINERY EVENT under the terms of this
Ordinance if any of the following criteria are met:
The activity has a specific
starting time, rather than being spread throughout normal
An entrance, cover charge or
attendance fee is charged;
Reservations are required
(except where reservations are utilized solely to space visitors
to the winery out over a period of time);
Individual invitations are
The winery is closed to the
general public during the activity;
The activity occurs beyond 6:00
Music, art, or other entertainment and cultural activities shall
be allowed as accessory activities in conjunction with Winery
Events; however, in no case shall entertainment include
fireworks, hot air balloons or helicopter rides unless
specifically authorized by special exception. Any food provided
in conjunction with a Winery Event shall be prepared off-site;
in no case shall approval of a Winery Event be construed to
allow food cooked to order or food preparation on-site. Events
lasting more than a single day shall be counted as a separate
event for each day under these provisions.
The Virginia Code
provision does not allow the County to apply any noise
limitations to wineries that are not part of the code applying
to all uses, except that it does specifically allow localities
to regulate outdoor amplified music related to events and
activities. Noise impacts appear to be the most critical
concern of winery neighbors, as evidenced by the public
testimony on this text amendment. The Planning Commission
recommended draft includes the following noise limitation for
Noise: No outdoor amplified music shall be allowed. Outdoor
amplified music shall include music emanating from an open or
temporary structure. In addition, no noise shall exceed the
noise limits in or adjacent to residential uses as set forth in
There was much
discussion throughout the Planning Commission hearing process as
to whether the limitation should be “no outdoor amplified music”
or “no amplified music audible at the property line,” with
neighbors strongly preferring the former and wineries preferring
Zoning Ordinance regulations, almost all uses in the County,
including farm wineries, are required to secure a Zoning Permit
prior to operation. As part of the Zoning Permit process, the
applicant is required to provide permit approval from the
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) related to access,
and Health Department permit approval related to septic and
water for the level of events they propose. The Zoning Permit
process affords the County to check other basic
requirements/limitations, such as building setbacks, keeping out
of the floodplain, parking, etc.
The proposed text
amendment more specifically defines the Zoning Permit process,
as the process has not properly been followed in the past.
While most wineries do have zoning permits, few have identified
on the zoning permit application any intended activity other
than growing and processing grapes. Staff is currently in the
process of compiling all of the details on existing zoning
permits for wineries. The text amendment clearly sets forth
the requirements for the zoning permit. The zoning permit, with
associated Health Department and VDOT permits, are critical, in
that they may limit a winery to a lesser level of events that
would otherwise be allowed by the Ordinance. For example, if
a winery only provides septic facilities for a maximum of 50
people, even if the Zoning Ordinance allows larger events
generally, the zoning permit for the property would set the cap
at 50 people in light of the applicant’s proposed septic system.
Staff would note
that in the formal Planning Commission draft, this by-right
approval process was called an “administrative pemit” rather
than a zoning permit, causing substantial confusion among
wineries as to whether or not the permit was truly by-right or
not. To eliminate this confusion, the staff restructuring has
moved these process requirements to another location in the
Ordinance and clearly defined the process as a zoning permit
process. The submission requirements are not new, but rather
an elaboration on existing zoning permit submission requirements
found in Article 13 of the Zoning Ordinance. The elaborations
are intended to specifically clarify for all what is required.
There was extensive
participation by both wineries and the public in the process as
this text amendment was considered by the Planning Commission.
A copy of all written correspondence was previously made
available to the Board. As of the date of drafting this report,
no new comments have been received by staff since the Board’s
work session on the winery issue.