By ROY WOOD
Hard on the heels of a public hearing in which several residents expressed their objections, Oliver council on Tuesday approved the creation of a small winery on a vineyard in the Tuc-el-Nuit neighborhood.
Close to two dozen residents – some supporters and some opponents — crowded council chambers for the public hearing into a rezoning request from the Fortin family that would allow them to create a small, family-run winery on the vineyard at the corner of Zinfandel Road and Meadows Drive.
In the request for the rezoning, the applicant said: “The Red Horses Vineyard is a small family-owned operation … (that) currently produces nine tons of Cabernet Sauvignon. …
“We are foregoing an enormous financial opportunity by selling the grapes. … Establishing a winery will allow Red Horses to capitalize on this financial opportunity by allowing us to make all our grapes into wine.”
Objections to the project raised by Tuc-el-Nuit residents focused on: potential conflict between residential and commercial uses in the same neighborhood; possible increases in industrialization in the future; noise and odor pollution from the grape-crushing operation; and the potential for invasive species attracted by the vineyard.
Rod Fortin attempted to assuage concerns, pointing out there will be no increase in grape production from the vineyard and that the winery will be confined to buildings already on the property. “We are not building another Jackson-Triggs,” he said.
Following the hearing, the rezoning was the first substantive item on the regular council meeting agenda. Members of council were clearly uncomfortable having to make their decision with the public hearing attendees still sitting in their seats.
Mayor Ron Hovanes said, “When we took the land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve, the intention was not to disallow people from farming. … We are a farming community. …. The opportunity for housing will always be there.”
Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger said he has gone back and forth on the issue, but ultimately came down on the side of the applicant. “This is an agricultural property. … They’re asking to make wine as a home industry. … This is using the property to it fullest.”
In his report to council, contract planner Chris Garrish pointed out that Oliver’s Official Community Plan considers that there is plenty of land already zoned residential to last for 20 years and that “the retention of the subject property as (an) … agricultural parcel would not detrimentally affect the supply of residential lots.”
The report added: “(Staff) appreciates the symbolic nature of an application seeking to establish a small-scale winery within the “Wine Capital of Canada” and that this proposal will create economic opportunities within the community.”