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Clifton residents rally to stop winery/restaurant

An outpouring of Clifton town citizens overflowed the Town Board's regular meeting Tuesday, May 7, to argue and petition against a proposed winery and restaurant.

Shannon and Angela Zimmerman, W10887 875th Ave., want to open Bellevinez Vineyard & Winery. It would include a restaurant and banquet facility.

Catherine Munkittrick, attorney with Rodli, Beskar, Krueger and Pletcher in River Falls, represents residents living on 1090th Street and 875th and 840th Avenues who oppose the winery.

She said her clients' main concern is the proposed commercial restaurant in an area zoned general-rural flex.

She said the Zimmermans' application for a conditional use permit states plans to also open a gift shop and rent out the facility for weddings and private parties.

Munkittrick said the application also details plans to serve pizza, pasta, wine, beer and mixed drinks. This is not a winery as defined in the zoning code, she added.

Other application plans include a 62-stall parking lot, a 6,000 square-foot indoor space including a 2,800 square-foot restaurant, a 6,000 square-foot outdoor plaza for events and a 9,000 square-foot reception area.

That type of facility is large compared to the surrounding single family homes, Munkittrick said.

She added that the winery most likely will attract customers from eastern Minnesota and surrounding areas. Those people be traveling on 840th Avenue to reach the winery. That road is very curvy and a designated recreational biking loop.

Munkittrick urged the board to deny the winery's recommendation on behalf of her clients.

The Zimmermans' attorney, Bill Thiel of Weld, Riley, Prenn and Ricci law firm in Eau Claire, suggested the town send the issue back for the county to review.

Thiel emphasized the following: That the winery is an agri-business, even with the restaurant; that it's consistent with the town's Comprehensive Plan; that it promotes rural life and preserves the land; and that the roads surrounding the winery can handle the added traffic.

Robert Scott, N8202 1155th St., disagreed with Thiel, saying residents have a right to a decision at the local level.

"Tough decision, yes, but that's why you were elected," Scott said to the Town Board.

The Clifton Town board took no action on the Zimmermans' conditional use permit and decided to meet with town attorney Bob Loberg before making a decision.

A special meeting on the topic is set for Monday, May 20.

See the May 16 print edition of the River Falls Journal for much more on this story.