County Council establishes new Agricultural Tourism District in wine region
By: Michael R. Smith
The St. Charles County Council has created a new zoning district in the wine region with the hope of ensuring future development there preserves the area’s natural beauty and rural atmosphere.
The new Agricultural Tourism (AT) District puts architectural- and site-design requirements on new buildings that are part of a tourist attraction – for example, a small inn added to a winery. Buildings for agriculture are exempted from the requirements.
Councilman Joe Brazil (Defiance), sponsor of the bill, noted that some wineries in the district are adding activities and attractions to draw tourists which he said “is a good thing.” He wanted to allow those businesse
s the ability to build new structures but also ensure the area retains its charm and isn’t overdeveloped.
“It gives the wineries latitude to do other things but it also controls the density,”Brazilsaid. “You can choose to be a winery or you can choose to go this AT district where you’ll have a little more latitude.”
The new ordinance affects properties of at least 40 acres. A maximum 7 percent of a property may be used for non-winery purposes with the balance still used for agriculture.
Brazilsaid that some wineries are now hosting weddings, want to offer lodging, and use their property for activities that are “outside the scope of their wine permits so we’re trying to get them into compliance.” He
However, wineries constructing structures for tourism purposes will now be subject to using certain exterior materials such as brick, stone, and wood; restricted to building height of two stories except for lodges; and required to add elements such as gables, dormers, and porches. said that there is no change to the agricultural requirements for vineyards.
The county has created a manual that provides suggestions and guidance for such structures.
“We’ve been talking about this for several years,”Brazilsaid. “We’ve been working on this a long time to make it right.” He said he met with wineries and business owners throughout the wine region about the changes. “I haven’t had anybody object.”