The fate of a local winery is now in the hands of the Camden County Commission. Ward and Barb Morris, owners of Sugarloaf Winery, claim that the current planning and zoning administrator is making it difficult to run what they refer to as their "mom and pop business" and even go as far to allege that Don Hathaway is attempting to run them out of business.
According to the pair, when the rezoning process began with planning and zoning about two years ago, the former administrator and some of the board members walked the entire property with them. Chis Hall, former Planning and Zoning Administrator, gave them guidelines and they started the processes to comply with them.
After their property was rezoned from residential to agricultural, Don Hathaway took over. Ward Morris claims that the project initially was to cost them between $150,000-$200,000. Two years and a new administrator later, the project is more likely to cost $400,000.
"It keeps adding up," Ward Morris told Hathaway and the Camden County Commission in a recent meeting.
Ward and Barb addressed the commission in hopes of stopping the reoccurring costs so that the business can continue.
The Morris's say that under Hathaway's direction, they have had evict families from rental homes, work toward vacating a road and possibly adding a cul-de-sac, pay extra permit fees than what was required with the former administration and pay thousands of dollars in unneeded legal fees.
"We need to use common sense to make this community grow," Ward Morris said. "If this continues, we will close the business."
The Morris's told the commission that they support planning and zoning but do not think direction should be changed on a project mid-way through the process.
"I don't want to be spending more money on this business. We can't afford it," Ward Morris told the commission.
The couple said that the project continues to grow, instructions change constantly and they are confused on which permits are actually needed.
Two weeks ago, a new issue arose. Hathaway had not spoken to the owners about signage in the year and a half that he had been assigned to the project. He brought up the issue of a sign that is in the yard of the Morris's home. The sign is for the winery but is not technically on the business property. He is saying that the couple needs to pay for a special use permit to continue to allow the sign to stay where it is. The Morris's say that the sign is there because of the direction given to them by Chris Hall. Due to a sharp turn, Hall thought the idea of the sign there would decrease any traffic issues.
Page 2 of 2 - "This is where common sense should prevail," Ward Morris said.
The winery opened in May and Ward Morris was under the impression that all issues had been resolved. That is not the case according to Hathaway.
The Morris's are running the business in an agricultural zone, but Hathaway prefers it be commercial due to selling food to the public and hosting live entertainment. Hathaway summarized the outlying issues as the commercial use of the property, sign on residential property, a prior deed restriction not allowing commercial use and a right away and access issue.
The Morris's feel like up to this point, the business should be in compliance. They know that if they proceed to phase two which includes building a new winery space, new steps would have to be taken to be in compliance.
"What we are going through right now is why people are not developing in your area," Barb Morris told the commission.
Commissioners agreed to take the issue under advisement, speak to Hathaway and get back to the Morris's. The commission can decide to waive any of other items and bring the winery up to compliance as is.