After a contested review, a vineyard in rural Ada County will likely be able to produce wine on-site but will need further licensing in order to sell it.
On Wednesday, the Ada County Commissioners appeared likely to deny an appeal to the commission that opposed a family business’s plan to produce wine on their property off Homer Road, north of Eagle.
Debate at the commissioners’ meeting pitted proponents of a local Treasure Valley winery against neighbors of the property, some of whom were opposed to having wine processing or social events on the premises.
In recent years, a number of people have applied to open wineries in rural parts of Ada County.
The commissioners’ deliberations followed over two hours of testimony from the public and would limit the times during which farming can occur, wine tastings can be hosted and deliveries to the vineyard can be made.
Though the county’s three commissioners appeared to agree on new conditions for the project and their intentions to allow the introduction of a winery to the property, a formal vote on the conditional use permit was tabled until June 28.
But even with the permitting, Ada County code requires the winery’s owners to get the approval of 75% of their closest neighbors before they can sell alcohol.
Couple plans for winery north of Eagle
Hailey Minder and her husband, Marshall, operate a 10-acre vineyard on North Artemisa Lane in Eagle.
A few miles west of Highway 55, the vineyard—which currently grows three kinds of grapes—sits on a hillside among farms and single-family homes.
The Minders, who live in Boise, also run a winery in Garden City called 3100 Cellars, which they say is Idaho’s first and only sparkling winery. The couple rent space from Telaya Wine Company, which sits along the Boise River.
In 2016, Hailey Minder said her parents purchased the plot on North Artemisa Lane, and planted a vineyard in 2017.
“That’s the way (my parents) felt like they could be part of our business, was by helping to grow the grapes and kind of have an estate vineyard for us without us having to do all of that on our own,” Minder told the Idaho Statesman.
A recently built home sits on the property, which also serves to store the vineyard’s equipment.
In October, the Minders applied for a conditional use permit to operate a winery out of the property as well as an event space to host wine tastings. They also applied to potentially build a larger space to process wine in an additional building.
In January, the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved a permit for a limited number of promotional and large events at the site, while also requiring limits on outdoor music, hours of operations for wine tastings and future review of the permit.
While the Minders hope to move their winery to the property north of Eagle to streamline their business and produce sparkling wine, a contingent of neighbors are not happy with the couple’s proposal, believing that selling alcohol and processing larger quantities of wine on the premises would damage the character of the neighborhood.
In late January, a neighbor, David Castro, appealed the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision, which sent the permit’s approval to the county commissioners for review.
In April, the commissioners took public testimony at a hearing and proposed several further restrictions on the winery’s operation. But commissioners tabled the matter until this month and directed staff to search for clarification on certain aspects of the project, including whether the existing septic system was sufficient for residential and commercial use.
‘It’s really hard to survive as a farm right now’
On Wednesday, over three dozen people testified at the commissioners meeting. Most who testified were in support of the winery business, noting that the proposed conditions on the winery would inhibit the business’s ability to survive.
But several neighbors who attended the meeting said that additional traffic and noise would negatively affect them. Others said that an 8,000 square foot building proposed for the property—7,000 of which would be for production and office space—was larger than was needed for processing a small number of grapes.
Castro, the neighbor who opposed the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision, told the Statesman before Wednesday’s meeting that he might consider legal action on the matter.
“We didn’t move out here to be in a commercial, industrial district,” he said.
As part of their conditions, the commissioners will likely require appointment-only wine tastings for only a five-hour period, five days a week. A commercial kitchen and events will likely be prohibited, other than two large wine pickup events per year. Wine production will likely only occur between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., and county staff have been directed to pursue solutions on further limiting excess lighting and sound.
The Planning and Zoning Commission included requirements that existing lighting be screened and that outdoor music be prohibited in their initial approval.
A review by county staff found that the current septic system could likely accommodate a wine production and tasting room or residential use—not both.
Minder told the Statesman that she was happy to work with neighbors to minimize the impacts of the business.
“After receiving feedback from the community, we’re more than happy to limit some of those things so that we can exist out here in the neighborhood that we chose to plant our vineyard in,” Minder said.
Minder’s property sits within a small American Viticultural Area, which is a federal designation used to recognize regions of the U.S. that have distinct geographic or climatic features that distinguish its wine.
“I understand the frustration that people have in feeling like they bought property in a place or have lived here for a long time and see the landscape changing,” she added. But Minder noted that having a direct path to consumers and bringing customers to the vineyard is an important aspect of their business, which could otherwise struggle to turn a profit.
She noted that many small farms have turned into subdivisions.
“Unless you have a direct path to a consumer, or a value-added product that you’re making out of your agriculture, it’s really hard to survive as a farm right now,” Minder said.
Since 2014, the county has approved the opening of six wineries in unincorporated Ada County, said Leon Letson, the community planning manager at Ada County Development Services. Since 2020, the county has received four requests—including the 3100 Cellars property—and three have been approved.
Though the business’s conditional use permit appears likely to be approved, county code requires that the owners also get consent from at least 75% of neighbors who are within 1,000 feet.
While the vineyard’s owners haven’t yet fully canvassed their neighbors, Minder said she suspects they may not have the support of enough of their neighbors to meet the requirement.
In late May, the commissioners discussed amending county code to require only 67% of close neighbors to consent to the sale of alcohol, as first reported by BoiseDev. The commissioners will reconsider the issue in the fall.
A final decision on the winery’s conditional use permit is scheduled for June 28.
This story was originally published June 2, 2022 12:04 AM.