Miscommunication slows upcoming winery

Published 11:20 am Friday, July 29, 2011

It seems the situation around Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery’s permitting issues stems from a breakdown in communication.

Despite more than a year’s worth of correspondence between planning and zoning officials and Four Daughters employees, the yet-to-be-opened business has run into zoning issues. At heart is how to define the winery’s food service.

Mower County officials took notice after several news articles from local media, including the Daily Herald, mentioned the winery could house a restaurant. County officials then heard from a septic system installer that the Vogts were planning a small restaurant as well.

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County officials sent a letter to the Vogts, who own the family-operated winery, asking them to cease advertising the winery as a restaurant or obtain the necessary permits to open a restaurant.

Though a representative of the Vogts told the County Board of Commissioners the family was ordered to halt construction during its meeting last Tuesday, Mower County officials and Four Daughters workers both say the business was never ordered to halt construction.

“We never said ‘halt construction,’” said Angie Knish, Environmental Services Director of Mower County.

A spokesperson for the winery agreed, saying construction was continuing as scheduled and the winery is still expected to open some time this fall.

“They don’t want us to open a restaurant tomorrow or next week until the zoning issues are cleared up,” said Kristin Osborne, a spokesperson for Four Daughters.

At issue is the winery’s permit applications. According to Knish, the Vogts applied for a conditional use permit to open a winery, vineyard and event center where food would be catered. The Vogts say they included in the permit that they would be selling foods like pizza, bread and sandwiches, as well as language for a possible future expansion.

Selling food could mean the business would be classified as a small restaurant, which the Vogt’s hadn’t expressly put down as part of the permit application. The Vogts put down a winery production area and equipment, a dining area, storage areas, an office and bathrooms as part of their permit. The permit mentions a large event venue as a future construction option as well, but does not specify a food preparation area. It does say the Vogts would have to obtain the necessary permitting for food and beverage service.

According to Knish, the Vogts would have to have their property rezoned in order to serve food as an eating establishment. The Vogts’ winery is zoned as an agricultural district and is classified as a family farm winery. Only a business district can house a small restaurant in Mower County.

“We don’t want to get into the food business,” Vicky Vogt told the board Tuesday.