Regulations for events at wineries in Montgomery Ag Reserve relaxed -- Gazette.Net


Wineries in Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve now can host more events without seeking county blessing.

A zoning change approved Tuesday allows wineries in the county's Rural Density Transfer zone, also known as the Agricultural Reserve, to play host to nine days of ticketed or cover-charge events each year without requesting special permission, as long as the light emitted from the event does not exceed 1/10 the light of a candle at the any property line. Under the current regulations, any more than two public events would require a special exception. For wineries outside the RDT zone, special exception still is required for more than two public events.

Introduced in February, the zoning text amendment sought to give wineries in the Agricultural Reserve more latitude for hosting events before special permission is required.

Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park, a sponsor of the amendment, said the change also clarifies what is a winery by adding to its definition that at least “5 acres of grapes or other fruit must be grown on the same parcel as the processing facility.”

Councilman Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown, another sponsor, said he had hosted a meeting with stakeholders, and that the provisions considered Tuesday in the amendment were a compromise.

“It is my goal to see our [Agricultural] Reserve become a productive entity,” he said.

The Sugarloaf Citizens Association took issue with the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee's definition of events as “ticketed,” saying in writing to the council that the definition did not address the biggest concerns of the surrounding community — traffic and crowds — and that as written it could be problematic and easily circumvented.

Having businesses in the Agricultural Reserve means there will be more traffic and noise, Rice said.

The association asked the county in writing to further amend the zoning language to be much more detailed.

Council members voted down the changes asked by the association.