Ada County Commissioners Approve Eagle Foothills Winery, Delay Decision on Event Center
On Wednesday evening, Ada County Commissioners sat late into the night to hear testimony from residents and the wine industry regarding requests from two separate wineries to expand operations in the area. The first was a request from 3100 Cellars on Artemisa Road for a license to produce and sell wine on their property and the second request came from Dude DeWalt Cellars along Highway 16 to expand their operations to a center of events and a social room with their cellar.
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The commissioners chose to allow 3100 Cellars to go ahead with their project, although they demanded several conditions limiting the hours of operation and the number of people who could be on the property at one time. The application for event center designation to Dude DeWalt Cellars was filed until June 14 at 9 a.m. to give commissioners more time to consider the issues after nearly six hours of testimony on the two issues.
A long-standing tension
Eagle Vineyards have been the focus of Ada County for several months now.
These demands are the latest in an ongoing battle between some Eagle Foothills residents who oppose the growth of wineries in the Eagle Foothills and the hopes of the Idaho wine industry to see the large lots in the area filled with vineyards instead of other residential developments. While the wine industry says growing wineries will preserve open spaces and enrich the community, neighboring neighbors have decried the dangers of drunk driving by visitors, extra traffic and noise from crowds socializing in their quiet rural area.
Earlier this year, the Idaho Wine Commission asked Ada County to withdraw its ordinance requiring the signature of 75% of landowners within 1,000 feet to approve liquor sales. This sparked fierce opposition in neighborhoods, with residents claiming they had a right to have a say in liquor businesses moving into residential neighborhoods.
The commissioners have now filed their final decision on whether they will change the order and what those changes will be, twice. A decision is expected by the end of the summer after the Idaho Wine Commission held a series of public outreach sessions with neighbors in hopes of finding common ground.
3100 Caves gets the green light, with a catch
After months of hearings dating back to last fall, Hailey and Marshall Minder will likely be able to start their wine production and sales in the Eagle Foothills. Their sparkling winery, 3100 Cellars, currently has a tasting room and production facility in Garden City, but they hope to start producing their wine at their vineyard and open a tasting room to sell their products.
Ada County Commissioners unanimously granted them conditional use permit approval to operate their winery on their winery property, but it came with a snag. 3100 Cellars can only open their tasting room by appointment only for five hour blocks between 12-5, 1-6 or 2-7 five days a week and can only take a maximum of ten customers per day on weekdays or up to 30 on weekends. They are prohibited from having a commercial kitchen or food trucks, no amplified music, and wine production operations can only take place between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
No promotional events will be permitted except for two wine pick up events with up to 50 people over a three hour period. 3100 Cellars can also only receive up to 20 truck deliveries per year from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ada County staff originally suggested only allowing deliveries in cars, pickups and vans, but after the two Minders testified at the hearing. regarding the type of vehicles delivering their grapes, glass bottles and other equipment, the commissioners elected to lift the vehicle type ban.
Commissioner Kendra Kenyon said she wanted to balance the character of the area and the convenience of existing neighbors with the hope of expanding wine production in Eagle.
“It’s a viticulture area and there will be wineries, but we have to be very conscious not to make it a big shopping or event center,” she said. “That was not what the original intentions were.”
The app for Dude DeWalt still up in the air
No one left happy after the planning and zoning hearing on Dude DeWalt Cellars’ application to become a designated event center.
Commissioners heard two appeals about the project Wednesday night, one from nearby neighbor Keith Hill, who hoped for more restrictions on winery operations and another from winery owner Johnna Buchert who hoped for fewer restrictions. Under the event center designation, Dude DeWalt Cellars would no longer be limited to 24 events per year with a maximum of 50 guests. But, the P&Z commission also proposed a condition to limit the number of special events with more than 50 guests to 15 times per year and Dude DeWalt will be required to notify the Ada County Planning Director whenever one of these events will take place.
These events are separate from day-to-day operations, where the owners expect around 200 people to visit the business per day.
Hill, who lives on the property directly to the south, vehemently opposes Dude DeWalt Cellars. He showed several videos taken from his back deck where loud conversations and music from the cellar were audible. He also expressed concerns about cars being parked in the basement grass and raised concerns about drunk driving on Highway 16. Hill also hired a private investigator to visit Dude DeWalt Cellars who showed videos of the steep driveway to the winery, cars parked in an unofficial parking lot. spaces and alleged that a 19-year-old junior private investigator had been served alcohol to minors several times.
“It’s not a wine tasting, it’s an outdoor bar,” Hill said during his testimony after showing clips of loud gatherings at the company.
In his appeal, he suggested several changes to the project, including a ban on outdoor amplified music and white wedding tents, no buses allowed to drop off customers on site, and restricted opening hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. He also requested that eight -foot privacy walls be erected at the south end of the property to protect the basement of his property and to dampen noise.
Buchert hopes for various changes from the commissioners. In her appeal, she asked the county to remove the cap of 15 events of more than 50 people per year and the requirement for prior notification of such large events to Ada County staff. His attorney, Jeff Bower of Givens Pursley, argued that Ada County misinterpreted ITD advice when they put the cap on larger events and that the location was ideal for an event center. events of this type due to its proximity to open land, with some exceptions.
“We think it’s an ideal place for this type of use,” he told the commissioners. “There aren’t many opportunities for these types of facilities and this one is with relatively few neighbors with great access.”
After the hearing, Commissioner Ryan Davidson said he needed more time to review the reams of information related to this application, some of which was recently presented at Wednesday’s hearing. The other commissioners agreed and unanimously decided to submit their final decision until mid-June.
“I don’t feel comfortable making a decision,” Davidson said. “I feel like I would rush into it and not make a decision that I would be comfortable with.”