Vineyard Proposal Aired At Hearing

Published: April 13, 2019 at 08:00 am


Residents living near a site at 56 Pole Bridge Road, which is proposed for a winery/vineyard, attended an April 4 Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) public hearing to learn more about the project and voice concerns about such development.

Applicant Ardian Llomi of Naugatuck is seeking a special zoning permit and a site development plan approval for the project at a steeply sloped 41-acre site in Sandy Hook, which Mr Llomi owns with Neviana Zhgaba. The land is in an R-2 (Residential) zone on the east side of Pole Bridge Road, south of that street’s intersection with Bancroft Road. The tract has wooded and cleared sections.

The P&Z public hearing on the application is scheduled to resume at 7:30 pm on Thursday, April 18, at Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street.

The project would include the construction of a building to hold a winery/tasting room, a house for the owners, a long driveway, parking areas, and the cultivation of wine grapes in a vineyard for wine making at the site. Some land there already holds grapevines.

Attorney Ward Mazzucco, representing the applicant, said the winery would sell bottles of wine for consumption off-site, as well as provide wine tastings at the site.

Mr Mazzucco apologized on behalf of his client for some heavy erosion/sedimentation that occurred at Pole Bridge Road near a driveway, which is under construction. The situation has been stabilized, he said. The area where the driveway intersects with Pole Bridge Road has been lined with hay bales.

Mr Mazzucco said that construction of a winery/vineyard and a house represents growth that is much less intensive than development such as a residential subdivision there. The lawyer characterized his client’s proposal as, “benign, innocuous, unobtrusive.”

“Property values should not be depreciated,” he said.

In response to questions from P&Z members about the scale of activities at the proposed facility, Mr Mazzucco said the complex possibly would be the venue for small functions, but not big events. Parking spaces would be marked for 21 vehicles.

Civil engineer Charles Spath, representing the applicant, said the barn-like building that would hold the winery/tasting room would measure about 45 feet wide by 90 feet long. The 12-foot-wide, 800-foot-long paved driveway would have some vehicular pull-off spots along its length, he said. “I don’t expect much traffic,” he added.

Public Comment

During the public comment section of the hearing, Robert Boland of 55 Pole Bridge Road asked whether the town’s stormwater drainage system at Pole Bridge Road can handle the stormwater flow from the steeply-sloped site after the property is developed. Mr Spath said the town’s drainage system would be able to accept that stormwater flow.

Charles Zukowski asked whether the proposed development would affect hiking trails at adjacent open space land. Town Deputy Planning Director Rob Sibley said there are no trails near the site. “It’s hundreds of feet away from the trail that’s currently blazed,” he said.

One Pole Bridge Road man suggested that a cost/benefit analysis be performed on the proposal to gauge the financial impact of the project. “It’s beyond the scope of what we’re allowed to ask for” in a land use application, Mr Sibley responded.

Susan Davenport of 26 Pole Bridge Road raised traffic concerns stemming from the presence of the proposed facility. More traffic raises the potential for more auto accidents, she said. Speeding on what is a dangerous road will be amplified by the presence of a winery, she said.

Mark DeWolf of 53 Pole Bridge Road asked if large events would be held at the site resulting in the presence of caterers, tents, and on-road parking. Pole Bridge Road is in poor condition, he mentioned.

Aloise Mulvihill of 28 Pole Bridge Road said she is concerned about traffic problems that could occur, especially when considering the hazardous curves on Pole Bridge Road. The 21 planned parking spaces may not be enough spaces for events, resulting in winery patrons parking on the road, she said. Ms Mulvihill added that adverse traffic effects and damaged property values are her concerns.

Mr Sibley asked that the applicant provide a range of additional information at the April 18 hearing, including the barn-like building’s design, the specifics of signage for the site, stormwater drainage details, drainage structure maintenance plans, the positioning of an underground water tank for firefighting, and details on an emergency access plan for the property.

The applicable zoning regulations that allow vineyards and wineries with retail wine sales specify that such land uses must be on lots of at least 20 acres. Wine sales are limited to sealed bottles or other sealed containers of wine manufactured at the winery for consumption off the premises.

The zoning regulations allow tours and also allow the offering and tasting of free samples of wine to visitors and prospective retail customers for the wine’s consumption on the premises. Such activity is allowed provided that the facility has a farm winery manufacturer permit issued by the state.


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