Dean and Lisa Erickson discussed their applications for two conditional use permits (CUP) at the December 15 meeting of the Fillmore County planning commission. During the public hearings, their detailed expansion and construction plans at the Windy Willow Vineyard located in Section 9, Preston Township were described.
Both CUPs, for a Farm Winery and for an Ag Tourism Business, were applied for simultaneously. The couple has a two-phase plan for the expansion. Starting in May of 2017, they plan to begin hosting weddings and other events using a rented tent and portable toilets. Parking will be in the yard. There will be room for about 75 vehicles and up to about 200 guests. They anticipate hosting 10-15 weddings in a season. Erickson said there will be no food preparation on the premises, as it will be catered in. Any hard liquors for an event will be brought in by a licensed vender.
Also, in the spring of 2017, the couple will begin construction of a 16 foot x 32 foot winery production building with a 3,000 gallon production capacity.
In 2018, they will begin construction on a permanent 6,500 square foot winery/tasting room and production room with a capacity for the production of 10,000 gallons of wine. Erickson said the first, smaller building will eventually be used for storage. The larger building will have restrooms, tasting room, meeting facilities, and an entertainment area. There will be parking space for 150 vehicles.
Construction is expected to continue on into 2019. A 3,000-square-foot venue building is also planned. It will have a restroom and bar area for beer and wine sales. This building is to be used for weddings, winery and other events.
Zoning administrator Cristal Adkins said this is the first winery application of this kind to be considered by the planning commission.
There was some discussion about the current driveway off Ridge Road and whether it should be improved in some way. There was no comment from township officials or the public on the Farm Winery application. The application was approved and will be sent on to the county board for their consideration. One condition is attached; the county engineer will need to approve the driveway access.
During the public hearing for the Ag Tourism Business, the commission discussed conditions that were put on previous CUPs that have been approved in this category. Conditions have included band/entertainment to end by midnight and proof of liability insurance. Erickson had no problem with entertainment ending by midnight and expected to have liability insurance.
There was no comment from township officials. Neighbor Mike Johnson spoke in support of Erickson’s business plans. He said he was a feedlot owner. Johnson had questions about the time frame and if there will be a need to reapply for a CUP down the road. Adkins said if they meet the regulations laid out in the ordinance, the CUP will be good indefinitely. The CUPs will go with the property were it to be sold.
There was no comment against the Ag Tourism Business CUP. The CUP was approved with two conditions: band/entertainment to end by midnight and no on road parking. It will be sent on to the county board for their consideration.
Adkins referred to a recent meeting with representatives of the DNR, where ordinance language regarding flood plains and shoreland areas was discussed. She said the original shoreland language in the Fillmore County ordinance was taken from model state language. That language has changed. She said shoreland regulations are always changing. People continue to want to live close to the river.
Adkins noted they are still working with a 1987, map as the more recent FEMA maps have not been adopted yet. She maintained that they don’t want any new building sites at all in the flood plain.
Adkins also briefly discussed restrictions in the ordinance that restrict construction of a dwelling on land that has a 65 crop equivalent rating (CER) or higher. An acreage may be buildable if the assessor has classified it as pasture for at least 10 years or if it is below 65 CER. Adkins said the fact that a piece has never been tilled does not make it buildable if it is 65 CER or higher.