February 22, 2007
A new law agreed upon by the Virginia Legislature will ease restrictions on land use issues for wineries.
"It will allow us to have more customers," said David King of King Family Vineyards in Crozet.
The new legislation will loosen restrictions that Virginia farm wineries face each and every year. Right now, under an Albemarle County ordinance, King Family is only allowed 12 events per year before having to apply for a special use permit. This new law eases that number which vineyard owners say can only improve their bottom line.
"Wineries are just like any other business, we need to have customers to be economically viable," King said.
"Any legislation that opens up the possibility of some largely unregulated commercial activity happening in the rural area concerns us," said Lee Caitlin from the County Executive's Office in Albemarle County.
Caitlin says the County is leary of the consequences of this bill. Most of Albemarle County's wineries are located in rural areas, which have strict restrictions on traffic and water usage. With those locations comes the expectations from residents to live the rural lifestyle.
"Our citizens for many years have told us in a strong way that they want to see our rural areas as protected and preserved as possible," Caitlin said.
And while King says he appreciates many people's concerns, he feels the Legislature made the right decision.
"The Assembly made it very clear the farm winery is important to the Commonwealth and is to be encouraged," he said.
The bill passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate. If Governor Tim Kaine signs the bill it will go into effect on July 1. As for Albemarle County, they say they will examine the language of the bill to see what, if any, enforcement is possible.
The bill was written by Delegate David Albo of Fairfax and championed by Senator Emmett Hanger.