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Neighbors Voice Concerns over Effingham Winery, Farm Winery Laws

| March 10, 2016 | 0 Comments | Bristow Biz
Effingham Manor, the newest winery founded by Chris Pearmund.

Effingham Manor, the newest winery founded by Chris Pearmund.

While many are excited about the announcement of the Effingham Manor Winery to be located on a historic property in Nokesville, a group of neighbors are concerned that the winery is location practically within their HOA community, Alexander Lakes.

Several residents of Alexander Lakes do not think a winery fits into their community and is thus asking the county to explore whether it fits the zoning, as well as determine if additional restrictions could be enacted to protect residents. A few residents have spoken to Bristow Beat directly, but most asked to remain anynmous.

Chris Pearmund the owner of Pearmund Cellars is known in Northern Virginia for the many wineries he had a hand in opening. Hearing that the bank was selling an old manor house in Nokesville on the historic registry, he bought it. Pearmund is now restoring the property and preparing to launch of his newest winery, Effingham Manor Winery in April. Along with the winery, he is building a reception hall to house events to hold up to 150 people. He has a pending Special Use Permit (SUP) with the county, regarding the adaptation of the historic manor house on the property. It has not yet been determined whether he will need an SUP to open the winery or host receptions.

Residents told Bristow Beat that should the winery earn approval, it will bring noise, lights, tourists, traffic and even drunk drivers to their neighborhood. They also shared concerns about the impacts on their private roads and rural environment. They point to state agritourism laws for supporting the wineries over the communities.

This kind of winery is concerning enough near Aden Road, but completely unthinkable within an HOA neighborhood, said one woman.

One question looming large for neighbors is whether the winery has a right to operate or whether it requires an SUP. Owners of Effingham Winery believe the farm winery is by-right since they are in an area zone “A1” agricultural, and state legislation, Farm Winery Act of 2006,  provided protection for farm wineries.

However, those involved with Effingham Winery do not want residents to be concerned, saying they intend to be considerate neighbors.

“Effingham Manor is a by-right business however we are voluntarily working hand-in-hand with Prince William County to ensure that the new winery is something the entire community can be proud of,” said Jennifer Goldman, the Marketing and Events Director for Effingham Manor. “For anyone concerned about noise, lights, drunkenness, etc., I invite them to come to the Vint Hill Craft Winery or Pearmund Cellars on a weekend and take note that none of those things are prevalent at the wineries Mr. Pearmund operates.”

Goldman does not believe the winery presents safety concerns for its neighbors.

“We have no safety concerns regarding the winery’s proximity to neighboring properties. [Currently,] there are only three residences that are within sight of the winery, two of which are not currently lived in.”

Additionally, Effingham has agreed to pay for 50 percent of road maintenance on the private road it occupies.In fact, Goldman said she would think that residents would prefer the current use to a previous SUP, allowing the property to host 300-person events.

“I am sure they will be pleased to find that its current owner will be utilizing this beautiful historic resource much more responsibly, with smaller events and permanent structures and facilities,” Goldman said.

However, residents say they were never properly informed of the previous SUP back in 2007, which has since expired.

While the winery is located in an A1 Agricultural Zone, officials at the Prince William Planning Office say they have not received enough information to determine if it is “by-right.” They would have to determine if the operation fit their definition of agricultural.

Assistant Director of PWC Planning Officer, Rebecca Horner said they will have to gather more information on how the applicant plans to use the property before deciding if the use matches the zoning.

The owner is moving forward with building an agricultural structure. Agricultural is a by-right use in the A-1, Agricultural zoning district, which is the zoning of the Effingham Manor property. The applicant is working with VA ABC on a liquor license. The license he obtains from the VA ABC may impact how Prince William County defines the use. Since the owner has not yet obtained an ABC permit yet, Prince William County has not defined the proposed winery use, therefore, discussions and the SUP (Special Use Permit) review are ongoing. At this point the use-type, as defined by Prince William County, is still speculative. Prince William County will need more definitive information about the VA ABC license before a determination of the use can be made.

However, Horner said the permitting is not the deciding factor for her department. There might be some overlap between the designations, but she explained that her office has its own criteria separate from that of the Virginia ABC.

Some residents would like Prince William supervisors to set additional guidelines for their local wineries as other jurisdictions such as Fauquier have, since the state allows Farm Wineries to operate with very few guidelines.

According to Jennifer Guild of the Virginia ABC, Virginia wineries can sell bottles until to 2 a.m. on their premises, host as many guests as they wish, park as many cars and charter buses on their property and serve other kinds of alcohol if a third party involved in the event obtains a banquet license. Once the winery is approved, the owners can continue to expand and neighbors fear it will be too late to enact restrictions.

One Virginia delegate is trying to Amend the Farm Winery Act to address concerns in his district. Del. Tim Hugo (R-Centreville) has proposed the General Assembly to amend the Farm Winery Bill via HB879, so that it does not apply to Rural Conservation areas that are primarily residential.

According to the PWC’s Planning Office, that amendment would not apply to Prince William’s Rural Crescent, which is designated A1 not RC.

The discussion will continue this Thursday, Mar. 10, at 7 p.m. at an open meeting of The Nokesville Civic Association, which will be held at the Nokesville Firehouse, located at 12826 Marsteller Drive. Pearmund will be there to answer questions about the Effingham Manor Winery.

The NCA will also be discussion the proposed ADAMS Mosque and community center that evening. Visitors are welcome, and interested residents are encouraged to join.

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