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Clifton: Winery proposal brings objections

The little old Clifton schoolhouse was buzzing like a beehive at the regular Town Board meeting April 3. Residents were there asking for protection for the peace and quiet of their neighborhoods.

Shannon and Angela Zimmerman, W10887 875th Ave., want to open Bellevinez Vineyard & Winery in 2014, depending how the grape crop grows.

The Town Board already approved a recommendation to the county for a conditional use permit for the vineyard and winery. It is still going through the approval stages at the county level.

The Zimmermans appeared before the Town Board to relay information from Pierce County confirming that a business can set up on a private road like 875th Avenue. The Zimmermans never expected to be bombarded with concerns by their neighbors.

"I appreciate seeing all my neighbors here," Shannon Zimmerman said. "I didn't realize there was any alarming concern. Maybe imaginations went larger than reality."

Zimmermans' neighbors are worried how a winery/restaurant will affect traffic on surrounding roads, property values, safety for residents walking on roads, noise levels, hours of operation and preserving the quiet of the countryside.

When asked about the rumored restaurant, Zimmerman downplayed the impact. He said they don't plan to open a full restaurant like Vino in the Valley, but will offer light menu items to go with glasses of wine.

Many residents said they don't want a business as busy as Vino in the Valley in their area. They described the residents near Vino in the Valley as "devastated" by the increased traffic.

Connie Holck, W10915 County Road M, said she and her husband love wine and wineries, but they're concerned with commercial zoning invading their residential area.

Zimmerman didn't know if the county will require the winery to be zoned commercial.

Clifton Town Chairman Leroy Peterson reminded Holck that the area is zoned general-flexible, which allows enterprises like the vineyard/winery.

Lynn Gednalske, N8861 1090th St., is worried the winery will cause traffic to dramatically increase.

"Depending how successful you are, and we hope you would be successful, but maybe somewhere else," Gednalske said.

Holck suggested the Zimmerman's model their winery after Cannon River Valley Winery in Cannon Falls, Minn.

According to Holck, the grapes are grown and the wine is produced in the country, but the selling and tasting is done at a location in the city.

Carol Schoenthaler, N8773 1090th St., is worried the winery's hours, if open later in the evening, will bring too much noise.

"We live in the country because it's quiet and we like it that way," said Schoenthaler.

Zimmerman invited all the residents to an informal meeting at his home, where he and Angela can explain all aspects of their business and answer questions.

Read more about the Clifton Town meeting in the April 11 print edition of the River Falls Journal.