This letter is written by Jeff Vernon, General Manager, Chamard Vineyards:
Chamard is seeking the support of our community because we would like to remain a viable, sustainable farm and beautiful destination in the Town of Clinton. We would like to enhance our guests’ experience by serving food from local farms paired with our wine in a bistro, recycle our used wine bottles into dishes and glasses, and create an interior farm market. All of these improvements are planned within the existing winery buildings. All of these operations are allowed under the existing Town of Clinton Farm Tourism regulations.
Please write a letter in support of our plans today and attend the Public Hearing on September 5 at 7pm at Clinton Town Hall. Letters can be emailed directly to Clinton Planning and Zoning at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is very important that everyone take a few minutes to document your support for our initiative to pass.
Many questions and misconceptions have arisen from a small portion our local community. Below are the facts to address these questions and clarify the specifics of the proposed improvements.
1) We are not proposing any new parking areas. All of the gravel parking areas are presently on the site. The most recent modification was to create an interior overflow gravel surface area so that guest vehicles for our eight allowed annual events are not parking within the farm areas, between rows of vines, and adjacent to access drives, as has happened in the past. It also affords us an area to park our farm equipment away from the barns and our guests. This area is relatively distant from our primary buildings and generally not visible from areas where guests congregate. In addition, it is not visible to neighbors.
2) We are not expanding our winery or other buildings. All interior building modifications are to improve the vineyard experience of our guests. The Winery was built in 1988 and benefits from the remodeling. We would like to be able to serve farm fresh food to those who are tasting our wine, and to provide tables (35 seat capacity) for some of them to relax and enjoy their wine and culinary selections.
3) We are not proposing any guest vehicle driveway out to Airline Road. Our single entrance and exit point for guests and employees will remain the same on Cow Hill Road as it is today. If public safety personnel desire it, we can provide a driveway to Airline Road for fire apparatus and other emergency response vehicles.
4) Chamard Vineyards has retained a professional engineering firm to prepare a traffic impact analysis. This will address traffic generation and vehicular safety for the proposed changes.
5) In an effort to be environmentally conscious, we are proposing to recycle and re-purpose our used wine bottles for use as glasses and plates, for use on-site and for sale.
6) Most of the music at the vineyard is generated by one or two musicians as background music for wine tastings on the weekend. These musicians perform inside the tasting room or barn. Complaints about fireworks were from a single celebratory event (one of our 8 permitted events per annum), although permitted, the fireworks caught the neighborhood by surprise and should been handled differently. Music complaints from our large outdoor events have been scattered and we are taking steps through scheduling and a change of events to minimize the impact on the neighborhood. We are currently working with sound and acoustical engineers and a few neighbors to minimize our impact. All our events are limited in attendance (we are not allowed more than 250 guests at any one of our eight annual events, such as weddings or our Harvest Festival, and they generally range from 80 to 200 guests). All noise at the vineyard meets the noise standards and time parameters as required by Town ordinance, as do all events at the vineyard, but we realize conditions may warrant special treatment in some areas and we are working to correct and treat those situations.
7) State winery laws do not allow us to dispense alcohol (hard liquor) to guests.
8) We propose to sell fresh farm produce to our guests at one of our barn buildings presently used for storage.
9) All of our proposed changes are to improve our revenue streams, to enhance the experience of our guests, to help grow the local economy, and to help make this farm vineyard operation self-sustaining and viable. None of the proposed changes will generate appreciable additional traffic, off-site noise, lighting or other impacts. The vineyard is a tourism destination and an open space asset.
10) The vineyard intends to remain a good neighbor.
11) The vineyard is an amenity that enhances surrounding property values and the value of residential properties throughout the Town.
12) The vineyard sustained significant grape vine losses due to a frost this spring, and incurred unanticipated costs to replant large sections of the farm. These vines will take a while to be productive, which means the vineyard will have to buy a higher volume of grapes from other farmers. Wine production costs will be higher during this period.
Jeff Vernon, General Manager, Chamard Vineyards
Editor's note: The public hearing on Chamard Vineyard's application before the Planning & Zoning Commission is continued and takes place Wednesday, Sept. 5, 7pm, in the Rose Room (downstairs) at Andrews Memorial Town Hall in Clinton.