ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County’s BOC is back to alcohol discussions this week as the monthly meeting debated concerns about locations of farm wineries.
Kicking off the public discussion in both the county’s work session and regular meeting, Michael Smith voiced concerns over the location of a winery on River Hill Road. With a church nearby, he brought up the alcohol ordinance and distance requirements set forth by the Board of Commissioners. He specifically noted Gilmer Code section 10-62 referencing these distances.
County Attorney David Clark noted that Farm Wineries have exceptions built into their ordinances. These exceptions mean that they do not have to adhere to the same distance requirements.
Smith’s argument focused on the alcohol ordinance and his belief that it should cover wineries and tasting rooms as well. Smith said in the Regular Meeting, “If we have ordinances to regulate the other alcohol sales in the county, we should have ordinances about this.”
As Clark refocused the meeting to the county’s meeting to offer a chance for citizens to voice opposition or support, he reminded the public that the Commissioners meeting is not a place to offer new or old evidence to “retry” the public hearing. However, Paris and Clark encouraged citizens that the board did want to hear support or opposition.
The very next speaker, Mr. Andrews of Cantrell Road, offered 370 names on a petition in opposition to the winery and tasting room.
The speakers came for both sides with close to 15 or more people speaking to both for and against the application.
Paris and Hubert voiced concerns about noise and some of the things that come with tasting rooms and wineries. Paris noted that events seem to go without saying with tasting rooms, and with that comes parking and traffic considerations.
They also both voiced concerns about the vote saying they didn’t want it taken as a general opinion on wineries in the county. Paris made a motion to approve the farm winery in the meeting. However, no second came.
And after a clarification from Clark on the Wineries and Tasting Rooms in the ordinance, Paris said he didn’t see much difference between them.
He withdrew his motion. But commented to the public saying, “This is one of those things that half of you folks are going to leave here fuming and the other half will be smiling, and, probably, nobody up here is going to be happy about anything.”
According to Paris, this location was denied once before with a previous application as well. Ultimately, the motion came to deny the rezoning with a 3-0 vote.