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Conflict returns: Clifton residents rally against neighborhood winery

Last summer when the Clifton Town Board recommended that Pierce County OK a conditional use permit for Shannon and Angela Zimmerman, W10887 875th Ave., to build a winery on their 20-acre property, it did so expecting the county to honor the board’s request to deny the application part requesting the right to provide food service.

The board’s recommendation was to support the Zimmerman’s agricultural business plan, while accounting for concerns from Clifton residents that adding a restaurant would draw larger crowds, be too noisy for the countryside, increase traffic, hurt neighboring property values, and jeopardize safety for those out walking.

In the end, the county decided to approve the Zimmerman’s conditional use permit for both the winery -- which goes by Bellevinez Winery, LLC -- and food service.

Almost a year since the conditional use permit was issued, concerned Clifton residents joined together again.

This time it was at the June 10 public hearing and regular Town Board meeting to oppose Bellevinez Winery’s application for a Class B liquor license specific to wineries that would allow the sale of wine by the glass and bottle to the winery’s patrons.

Those opposed to the winery/restaurant from the start are using the application review process as a new opportunity to keep the Zimmermans from moving on with plans to serve wine by the glass and bottle, and to serve food.

“We are opposed to serving wine in our neighborhood, in the backyards of three people here -- of serving wine by the glass and by the bottle… A Class B does not fit where they’ve chosen to have this winery,” said Connie Holck, W10915 County Road M.

Some residents see the Zimmerman’s winery as “one big smokescreen” for establishing a restaurant on land zoned general rural flex, which allows enterprises like the vineyard/winery, but not stand-alone restaurants.

Resident Robert Carl Moy, who lives one driveway down from the Zimmermans, gave other reasons against issuing a Class B liquor license.

First, Moy claims a complete application wasn’t available for public inspection 15 days before the public hearing -- as required by state law. He says “relatively key parts” of the application were only made public two days before the hearing and other parts are simply missing.

On that basis alone, Moy said the board could not take action on the application that evening.

Moy also referred to a state law prohibiting the issuance of a Class B liquor license to wineries unless the owner has been issued a state winery permit and “the winery is capable of producing at least 5,000 gallons of wine per year in no more than two locations.”

The Zimmerman’s attorney, Andrew Nelson of Hudson-based Nelson & Lindquist, S.C., responded to Moy’s concerns and those of “the local minority.”

Nelson said state law requires a state winery permit to be issued if an applicant has a conditional use permit and provides a business tax registration certificate -- which the Zimmermans have done -- and that, while the Zimmerman’s don’t have the permit in hand, it will be issued soon.

For more on this story and town of Clifton news, please see the June 19 print edition of the River Falls Journal.