Chamard Neighbors Come Out In Force For Traffic Study Meeting

The community room at the police department was packed with residents who asked a lot of questions about the still-confusing application by Chamard to expand their operation.


Is Chamard Vineyards planning a 130-seat restaurant, or not? How many parking spaces do they use now and how many more are they asking for?  Will they be building a new parking lot or using one they already have?  Are they planning to use their Airline Road access street or not? Are they planning on new programs at the vineyard such as arts & crafts, blacksmithing and quilting, or not? Do they grow their own grapes for their own wine or buy everything offsite?

These were the questions asked over and over by a large group of neighbors hoping to get concrete answers.  Many of them left the meeting frustrated that their questions were not answered.

Neighbor Sandi Bogucki summed it up best when she said that everything she has read is different from what she has heard.

"I went to town hall and read the file," said Bogucki. "What's in the file is different from what we are hearing tonight."

The July 23 meeting was held at the Community Room at the Clinton Police Department and conducted by the Board of Police Commissioners who are also the traffic authority for the town. It was advertised as asking those with concerns over the traffic and future traffic at Chamard to attend and voice their views and concerns.

Representing Chamard Vineyards was their new consultant, Peter DeMallie, president and CEO of Design Professionals from South Windsor, and Andrew Krar, a licensed professional engineer with the firm.

DeMallie said he and his firm were "recently engaged by Chamard to look at traffic in the area, its history, and any modifications that might be necessary as a result of their proposed new use."

DeMallie said that Chamard is not operating in a positive cash flow and "needs to grow their revenue stream."

"If they don't have the revenue, the vineyard will become another use," he noted, saying that there are other uses allowed in that zone such as residential dwellings.

Board of Police Commissioners chairman Ed O'Connor make it clear that no decisions were going to be made that night.

"We will table any action until after the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) meets on Chamard's application," said O'Connor.

The PZC's next scheduled meeting is Monday, July 30 at 7pm at town hall.

Here are some excerpts of what the consultants DeMallie and Krar had to say:

  • On a very good day, 250 people will visit the vineyard.
  • They are allowed to have up to 8 special events a year such as weddings.
  • They have five full-time employees and 25 part-time employees.
  • There is an application before the PZC for a 35-seat bistro.
  • They currently have two parking lots - one with 8 spaces and one with 67 spaces, for a total of 75 spaces. They are not looking to build any additional parking.
  • They are not proposing a new 130 seat restaurant. They want the ability to serve food to people in and around the vineyard - at the patio, deck, wine tasting bar, barn and picnic tables.
  • Tourism buses are allowed to go in and out of the vineyards.
  • The largest amount of visitor vehicles they counted last weekend (July 21-21) at Chamard was 29 cars.
  • For their traffic study, they counted 135 cars traveling northbound and 96 traveling southbound on Cow Hill Road near Chamard from 5-6pm on Thursday, July 19.
  • In another traffic study conducted on Saturday, July 21 from noon to 1pm, 119 cars traveled northbound and 125 cars traveled southbound at the same area of Cow Hill Road.

Here are questions/comments/suggestions/complaints from the neighbors:

  • We are here because of three evenings in June when we witnessed tons of traffic and 300 cars left the vineyard after 10pm at night.
  • I cannot take my children for a walk or bike ride on Airline Road due to the speeding and drinking. We fear for our lives.
  • People pull into my driveway all the time and turn around to get to Chamard.
  • I hope safety issues are addressed in this traffic study.
  • Cow Hill Road is a disaster - it is curvy with telephone poles and trees on the very edge of the road.
  • The amount of large delivery trucks with food and beer going in and out worries me.
  • When Chamard's parking lot is full, people park on the street in front of my house. Will they soon park in my driveway?
  • I'd like to see someone examine, study and report on the drinking issue. 
  • We want to enjoy the quality of life we have in our residential neighborhood.
  • Not being able to run their business is the vineyard's problem, not ours.
  • The new owner of the vineyard is an "absentee" owner.
LF July 25, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I agree with everything you said and i also do not live that far and i have never seen a truck or heard anything from there that would bother me infact i had no idea there was so much going on there and just might take an evening and go enjoy.
Peter Hlousek July 25, 2012 at 02:48 PM
The application is for 65 seats, not 130. We live on Airline Road and find Chamard to be a good neighbor. We have never seen cars parking along the road. The music is generally easy listening or folk, and it shuts down early in the evening. Having been to several events, or gone for a glass of wine and a touch of Tuscany, we have never seen anyone at the vineyard who appeared to have drank too much. The staff at the vineyard monitors this well. As to traffic along either Airline or Cowhill, how much is due to those living north of the vineyard? As to those opposed to seeing the Chamard grow, I would watch 'what you wish for'. Those beautiful acres of vineyards could be cluster housing or some other business that creates issues of greater concern.
judi July 25, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I think that it is obvious that many of these comments lack credibility, as the authors' property does not share a property line with Charmard's and, therefore, they are not directly affected. As far away as Pleasant Hill Lane and Country Village Road (which, I believe is on the "back end" of Chamard's), dishes and windows were rattling from the loud music. It can only stand to reason that there will be more traffic. Anyone living on Airline and Cow Hill knows how treacherous it is to walk on the street. An expansion in this business can only mean more customers and more traffic. The traffic in this neighborhood is almost non-existent at 11pm. Departure from concerts, weddings and the restaurant is likely at this hour and would change that. Mr. Vernon is proposing just that. It is unlikely that someone living a mile away would be affected by traffic or noise. There is gated road off of Airline that has been considered for another entrance to Chamards? This will seriously impact the landowners for many reasons. Light pollution? We can see the stars and identify constellations in the dark of the night. Wouldn't an expanded parking lot require lighting? Please attend next Monday's meeting and get informed!
judi July 25, 2012 at 02:59 PM
(from another neighbor) The crowd that showed Monday night simply represents how frustrated the local neighbors have become with Chamard. They have shown little to the quality of life to the neighborhood, if you don’t live around it you would not know and frankly do not blame you for your comments. It is a peaceful area, that is why we choose it, loud wedding and concert music blasting over the area is not what leads to good neighbors. Further if I were a small restaurant owner in Clinton and looking at Chamard I might be pounding on the BOS for tax relief. Chamard is protected heavily under the Farm and agriculture provisions. According to the Assessor’s Office only paid $9577 in Real Estate taxes this year with a $100,000 exemption for property taxes, wonder what Chips pays the Town? It may be a jewel to some people, but not for the majority of the surrounding neighborhood. Do not be fooled by the crowd at a traffic meeting, that is a symptom of bigger problems.”
Vindaloo July 25, 2012 at 03:27 PM
I understand the neighbors concerns about this business. I've been living near the Riverdale Campground for over 25 years. From Memorial day to Labor there are parties there. Karaoki nights, live bands, fireworks, huge campers up and down river road, which is much smaller and winding than Cow Hill Road. Other than the campground, this area is quiet and residential. I had many occasions where I would be riding my bike or going for a run down river road and had a huge camper come up behind me. Sometimes people come up my driveway looking for a place to party, But in all the years, I've loved having them as neighbors. I could sit on my deck on a summer evening and listen to the music and watch fireworks. My children have enjoyed walking to the campground to join the festivities or swim in the pond. Chamard is a fine local business that we should be proud of and enjoy. Their festivities are on the weekends in summer. Young, speeding drunk drivers don't go to Chamard. So your kids can hear music and fireworks when they go to bed. So What!. A word of advice....Teach your kids to sleep through noise and to learn how to avoid traffic when riding bikes and walking. You'll do yourself and your child a great service. I hope that residents will encourage more cool businesses like Chamard in Clinton, and maybe stop by the vinyard and drink some wine so they can chill out..
Peter Hlousek July 25, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Judi - I didn't realize our property needed to share Chamard's property line to have credibility or an opinion. Our house is about 1/2 mile from the vineyard 'as the crow flies'. My comments were based upon what I have seen, what I have heard or not heard, and attending functions at the vineyard. I respect you comments, but I stick by mine. Also, I will always put my full name on anything I write and believe in.
Ruth July 25, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I think the people who are finding fault with the residents who attended the Police Commission miss the point completely. This is NOT about the current traffic on Cow Hill and Airline. It is about the future. Naturally, Chamard wants more traffic — as much as they can get. These two narrow country roads already receive heavy use for a residential zone. All in attendance at the meeting fear what will come next and, after the Chamard presentation, were not satisfied that Chamard has any regard for its neighbors.
zygote1331 July 25, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Most of us want to see Chamard be successful, plus be a good neighbor. The real issue is that the owners are either changing their plans about what they want or they are misleading the town in order to get what they really want. Either way it does not make for a good neighbor. Is a vineyard better than a housing development? Maybe. Is a vineyard that wants to become a destination aka Sturbridge Village a good idea. Not on Cow Hill Road. Sustainable agriculture is entirely possible if you put your resources towards the land and the product. Gimmickry, large "bistros' and out door festivals will only create revenue at the expense of the surrounding area. This is why the neighborhood is concerned.
VIN CIMINO July 25, 2012 at 09:21 PM
I hope you're still around to comment AFTER the first time you encounter a drunk driver coming down either winding country road. Mr. DeMallie indicates that the vineyard is losing money and, if they can''t "grow their revenue stream", will become another use. But, it seems now that it is already becoming another use. I'm starting to see that a 35-seat bistro is probably not the ultimate goal but rather the tip of an iceburg that could easily destroy the current environment in that residential neighborhood. If the focus of the vineyard is going to shift, it probably should no longer enjoy farmland tax benefits. The threat of future development sounds similar to threats made by the owners of Camp Hadar. The town should not give in to these threats. If the owner wishes to pursue residential development, he has every right to do so. It would appear that residential development would be preferable to the long-term plan being proposed. And, any residential development plan will still need to gain P&Z approval. The farmland tax status wiill go out the window and the town will realize a lot of tax revenue from new homes built.
Susan July 26, 2012 at 12:47 AM
I share a property line with Charmard and have already had my floor boards shake from the loud base of a live band for a bar mitvah event/party and the fireworks (they had a permit) were so loud I had to shut my windows! The new owner does not care about the vines at the vineyard...only on how he could make money in the future...He is seeing what Bishop Orchards are doing (in commercial zone). The people sent to the meeting Monday night were not prepared...being brought in by the vineyard in the '11' hour. Charmard should be in a commercial zone if they want to be a 'cool' business in town...they would get more customers too! Lots of dead property to pick from in Clinton.
Peter Lefrancois July 26, 2012 at 01:20 AM
I have lived in this town 31yrs. I have never feared for my life on any street. This little piece of Clinton is unique. Protect what few remaining treasures we have. Or....... Let it get developed into ANOTHER Dead end road.. Be careful what you wish for.
Robyn Butler July 26, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Correct me if I am wrong, but when Chamard says they want to have 130 seats, they are not talking about in just one place/building. They are combining the amount of places they have to sit at both wine bars, outside, AND in the new bistro. That is my understanding - NOT that they want to build a new building with 130 seats. They are NOT trying to be like Chip's!
Vindaloo July 26, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Or....maybe more senior housing.
Vindaloo July 26, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Referring back to the campground I live near. It has 250 campsites. There are as many as 1000 people there on some weekends. I can't speak for my other neighbors, but there has never been any major problems in all the years they've been there.
Valentina DeMayo DaCosta July 26, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I lived on River Rd as for a few years as well, just a few houses south of the Riverdale Farm & the camp ground NEVER caused any issues... again, there are hundreds of people there daily in the summer & the noise level & traffic were never an issue. I don't know why it would be for Chamard... River Rd is much more narrow & windier (is that even a word? :)
Phil Sengle July 26, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Two points. 1. this is a great opportunity for the town to create a noise ordinance which we don't have. Without this there is no enforcement of high noise levels emanating from Chamard. 2. Suggesting a housing development in its place is not the way to go. The taxes on houses do not come close to covering the cost of the children that will put into our schools. The cost is over $15,000/student/year and rising.
Clinton Parent July 26, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Phil, Wouldn't the cost per child go down if we had more kids in our school system?? I'm of the impression we're losing children and that is why (in part) the cost is going up per student...same cost divided by less kids.
Fay Abrahamsson (Editor) July 26, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Robyn - You are correct. As it was explained to me by General Manager Jeff Vernon and Director of Sales Bridget Riordan at Chamard, the 130-seat is not a new building, facility or 130-seat dining room. It would be the granting of permission to serve food to up to 130 people in seats in and around the building and grounds. The wording of the application makes it confusing.
Stan July 26, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Is it too much to ask the Chamard team to bring copies of their ACTUAL proposal, fully-developed in detail, in clear language, to distribute at next weeks' planning meeting? Without this, I don't see any reason for this meeting to take place... there's WAY too much inuendo. The "11th hour" representatives rendered this week's meeting pointless, other than showing how little regard Chamard has for the public.
Clinton Parent July 26, 2012 at 02:53 PM
We live on Cow Hill and fear for our lives every time we walk down the road or even cross the street. I don't think it has anything to do with the vineyard...especially when you get farther down by the Killingworth boarder..its like the Indy 500! I'd like to see more stop signs, speed bumps, etc to start slowing folks down. I do see police everyone now and then but it will never be enough to deter the speeders.
Phil Sengle July 26, 2012 at 03:05 PM
True - more kids lowers cost per student, but total costs will go up. And with over a $10,000 gap between average property taxes and cost per student (and double that with two children, etc) there is no way houses can come close to paying for themselves. This is why commercial development is so important to the long term eonomic survivability of Clinton. And little is going on with regard to commercial development. We just have to be sure Chamard does it "right". Don't rely on P&Z to make that happens.
Stan July 26, 2012 at 10:07 PM
I think at least 2 issues are getting diluted here: (1) Cow Hill Rd has serious, dangerous driving problems. The police dept and town govt have to address this with more stop signs, etc. I deeply care about this! I live on Cow Hill. (2) The vineyard's truly-written-out application which we are all awaiting is a separate issue. Nobody should think that those of us who oppose the expansion are basing this purely on increased vehicles on Cow Hill -- it's one element, but it's not the complete package.
sally cotter July 27, 2012 at 10:52 AM
Sally c the guests who were recently hired to do a traffic study to help calm some fears of neighbors answered questions over and over at the meeting last week. Seems that people needed to talk but weren't willing to listen. Hopefully the p&z meeting will shed some light without resorting to gossip and fear-mongering.
ALLAN WOHLSTROM July 29, 2012 at 05:11 PM
does anyone know how much they charge for a wedding on their property? 8-10 thousand and what will the town see of that a big fat goose egg they only losers in this are the surrounding property owners if this gets approved noise traffic and most of all their property values being substantionally lower which in turn is less taxes paid to the town and all town residents will have to pay more to make up for it
Brad August 01, 2012 at 09:58 PM
I do not know chips pub,but I can assure you that the bistro will be dedicated to local farmers and excellent ,comfortable cuisine
Jay August 02, 2012 at 01:09 AM
As a result of the recession/depression people have cut back on having children - this will be reflected in the next couple of years by a decreased enrollment in many towns - hopefully this will prevent the need for millions to be spent expanding schools districts and reducing staff that is the major cost factor . Of course the teacher, administrator unions will demand that we maintain staff to reduce the size of classes downward to improve the test scores. It never ends till you say no on a regular basis at each and every budget vote. Take a real look at the level of administrators and teacher salaries - how many earn that in the real world?
judi August 03, 2012 at 02:56 PM
See FB page for details of violations by Chamard.
sally cotter August 15, 2012 at 01:39 PM
come to the next p & z meeting.(sept 5 at 7pm - town hall) chamard needs people coming to support it. to deny a 35 seat bistro because of noise and traffic is unreasonable. there is no noise involved - unless people are chewing with their mouths open & traffic is negligible from this small business addition. (
sally cotter August 15, 2012 at 01:40 PM
planning & zoning on sept 5 - 7pm. come & support them as they try to grow a business in this town that could grow some others ( wedding dress store, b&b, etc.)
sally cotter August 15, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Robyn - come to the p & z meeting on sept 5, 7pm - town hall - and show your support.


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