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The Lake News Online
  • Commission reduces fees to get winery up to code

  • Local winery owners will soon have the chance to wrap up their Planning and Zoning case and be completely up to code.
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  • Local winery owners will soon have the chance to wrap up their Planning and Zoning case and be completely up to code.
    During the latest Camden County Commission meeting, commissioners voted to reduce the outstanding fees owned by Ward and Barb Morris, owners of Sugarloaf Winery in Camdenton.
    "This is the most unique case we have in the books right now," Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken said.
    Due to changes in the planning and zoning staff, this case has been handled by two different administrators and the owners have said that each administrator told them different things concerning their case.
    The Morrises went public in July with complaints about how Camden County Planning & Zoning was handling their project.
    The couple started the process to get zoning of their property in line with their intended use over three years ago.
    At that time, the former planning and zoning administrator. Chris Hall. gave the Morrises guidelines to comply with the rules and regulations. With those guidelines in hand, the winery owners started the process.
    They successfully had their land rezoned from single family residential (R-1) to agricultural (A-1) in order to open a winery.
    But then in June 2011, Hall unexpectedly quit and was replaced with the current P&Z administrator, Don Hathaway, in August 2011.
    After receiving some complaints about the use of the property following the business opening in May, Hathaway says he found that the wine-making aspect of the business at this location was still developing — grape vines and wine-making commonly take time to develop — but Sugarloaf had in the meantime built an outdoor entertainment venue with a small restaurant and bar counter. There were also two houses being used for nightly transient rentals as well as canoe rentals. A sign on an adjacent R-1 lot advertises the commercial uses next door.
    While a straight winery is a principal permitted use in A-1, the commercial uses that go along with some wineries — sale of alcohol, outdoor music and other entertainment — are conditional uses and require a permit, says Hathaway. Being used for commercial purposes also made the accessory structures to the winery non-conforming.
    According to Hathaway, the problems stem from items not addressed during the rezoning case prior to his tenure with the county. The Sugarloaf Winery property was rezoned without submitting a site development plan which, he says, likely contributed to how the project moved forward even though it was inconsistent with the zoning code.
    Since Hathaway took over, according to Ward Morris, they have had to 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.
    Page 2 of 2 - Two actions remain to bring the the Morrises properties into compliance with the Unified Land Use Code, according to Franken.
    A conditional use permit is needed for the commercial activities at the winery along with a special use permit for the commercial sign on the adjacent residential property.
    The fee to apply for a conditional use permit with the county planning commission is $600. A special use permit application with the board of adjustment is $500.
    For all the commissioners, they each just want this issue to be resolved.
    "There is no way to identify what occurred. We just need to fix it," Franken said during the recent commission meeting.
    In an unanimous vote, the fees have been reduced to $100 each.
    The winery is currently closed for the winter and the couple is out of town. They plan on returning in the spring.
    Franken has been communicating with them and plans to let them know of the fee change.

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