County: New winery must cease advertising as restaurant

Published 10:42 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery ran into some trouble at the Mower County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Four Daughters, originally scheduled to open this fall, was recently ordered to cease advertising as a restaurant pending board action by planning and zoning employees after finding out the establishment was planning to serve food made at the site. Four Daughters representatives told the board they were ordered to halt construction, but both county officials and Four Daughters winery workers later said this wasn’t true.

“If we did something wrong, we’re sorry,” said Vicky Vogt, one of the owners of the family-operated venture.

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At issue is the winery’s business classification. If the winery sells things like pizza, bread and sandwiches, that could mean the winery is a restaurant under Mower County’s permitting procedure, which wasn’t stipulated in the business’s conditional use permit.

The Vogts say their winery’s food plans are covered under the Minnesota Farm Wineries Act, which was modified in 2007 to allow wineries to operate restaurants on-site.

Yet Mower County zoning laws take precedence, according to County Attorney Kristen Nelsen. The winery, located in Spring Valley, is on land zoned for agriculture and not zoned for restaurants.

“Maybe for state statute it’s fine, but in Mower County it is not,” said board chairman Tim Gabrielson.

Vogt told the commissioners her family was open about opening a small restaurant from the beginning, citing discussions she had with county officials about kitchen appliances and including the proper septic system for a small restaurant in the winery’s plans. Gabrielson and Nelsen disputed her claim after recalling their notes from the planning and zoning meeting when the Vogts applied for the winery’s permit. According to the county officials, the Vogts had said they would cater food whenever there was a need for it.

“We don’t want to get into the food business,” Vogt said.

The board could change the zoning on the winery property to reflect a small restaurant, but it would mean several actions by the board and the commissioners want more research done on the legal precedence of having a small restaurant as part of a winery. A spokesperson for Four Daughters said construction on the winery will continue as planned, as the company needed to bring this issue before the board by July 30.

“I think we can get it resolved,” said Commissioner Ray Tucker.

The Vogts are expected at next week’s board meeting at 1:30 p.m.

New local program offers low-income homes

Need a house? The local government has you covered.

As soon as this spring, the first house fixed up by the Housing Improvement Project, a collaboration between the City of Austin’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Riverland Community College’s Carpentry Program and Mower County among other organizations, will be ready for the market.

The two-bedroom, one bathroom house at 1003 Eighth Ave. NW will be furnished over the next few months by students from Riverland’s Carpentry department as part of the HIP, which seeks to improve the housing market in Austin by fixing up dilapidated homes and selling them to low-income families that qualify under the First Time Homebuyers Program.

“We hope it will make a difference in our housing stock in Austin,” said City Administrator Jim Hurm.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners sold the home to the HIP Tuesday for $1,550.50 to promote its partnership with the HIP. The board held back the Eighth Ave. NW home from public auction in May at the request of the city’s Housing Redevelopment Association.

“It’s just a darling little home,” said Karen Mattson, property manager.

Renovating a home doesn’t come cheap, as the HIP pointed out. The house needs a new kitchen, new bathroom, extensive floor work, tree work and more, which could add up to about $80,000 (although Mattson said the costs would most likely be around $50,000).

This won’t be the last home to receive such treatment, as the HIP will work for four years to improve city homes. The HRA will review the program after that to see whether the program can continue.