The tide has certainly turned for .
At the start of the public hearing process earlier this summer for their application before the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC), residents were clearly angry, confused, resentful and were about the winery's operations on Cow Hill Road.
But good communication does wonders. After many one-on-one meetings with their neighbors, a and , the management at the vineyard including General Manager Jeff Vernon, have made in-roads with neighbors to try to solve the issues and ease the tension.
"I don't want to be that type of neighbor," Vernon said, referring to previous complaints about loud music coming from the vineyard late at night. "We want to be better than that."
Vernon explained at the September 5 hearing that for future events (they are allowed eight special events a year such as weddings - no additional events are planned) they will stop the music at 8pm.
"I realize that events are not popular with the neighbors and frankly, they are not my favorite either," he said, explaining that the vineyard loses money on the days they are shut down for special events and on the following Saturdays, as well.
In order to help alleviate the noise issues, Vernon said he is working with a noise consultant.
Vernon clearly explained what the vineyard is seeking in their application before the PZC for a special permit for farm tourism:
- the retail and wholesale selling of agricultural products
- the retail sale of handcrafts, which for Chamard is melted-down wine bottles turned into gifts
- agricultural education and instruction such as wine-making
- a 35-seat restaurant/bistro
"I am trying to bring business to Clinton," said Vernon. "In order for Chamard to support itself, we need to develop an active farm tourism business. We want to sell wine and food, partner with local farms and host farm dinners."
Vernon explained that they were never planning on building a 130-seat restaurant (which confused many residents at the start of the public hearing process this spring), but want to have a 35-seat bistro inside the building which adds to the already 100 seats they have spread around the vineyard.
About 20 residents rose to speak in favor of Chamard's application - a far cry from previous public hearings when it was all negativity toward the vineyard. Several residents who had spoken against the application in the past now were in favor.
"We are in a different spot than we were weeks ago. There was so much confusion and ambiguity," said David Lee, a neighbor to the vineyard who said previously there had been no communications between the vineyard and the neighbors. "I support the bistro. I support their plans to build a different revenue stream, thus the need for bigger events will go down. I'm optimistic."
Sandy Bogucki, another neighbor and former opponent to the application, said management at the vineyard has reached out to the neighbors and she's "cautiously optimistic" and would like to see a definitive plan come from the PZC so issues are "not revisited."
Vince Cimino, noting that he's "been pretty vocal about my opposition," said he'd like "to compliment Jeff Vernon who reached out to neighbors. I wish him the best of luck. Let's give them the opportunity to prove themselves."
Other residents supported Chamard, saying things such as, "I would enjoy going there for a bite to eat," and "the town needs more pizazz and economic development," and "the town should support its businesses," and "we need to approve this as we don't want the reputation that 'Clinton is closed for Business.'"
Sandy Luke summed it up saying, "A 'no vote' by the Planning & Zoning Commission will only discourage future businesses from filling our town's empty storefronts."
Not one person spoke against the application at this public hearing date.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the public hearing on Chamard's application was officially closed by the PZC. The PZC will discuss and make a ruling on the application at a future meeting.