The Prince William Planning Commission deferred a decision to grant the county’s only winery a special use permit for events and a retail shop that one owner said is essential to the winery staying afloat.
Commissioners voted unanimously to defer the Winery at La Grange proposal to Nov. 1 at Wednesday evening’s public hearing after hearing mostly positive reviews, but also several concerns of the winery’s impact on what were called substandard roads and the possible noise problems.
Even though the Haymarket winery is open for business, the special use permit is needed to allow for retail sales inside the barn that is a production facility and for special events drawing up to 150 people in the space between the barn and the historic La Grange manor house.
The historic farm in the foothills of the Bull Run Mountains, just west of Haymarket on Antioch Road, is the site of a 15-acre vineyard.
Lisa Gonzales and her husband, who live on Antioch Road, both said they were not entirely opposed to the winery, rather an event-based business that could disrupt the peace and quiet that attracted them to the area.
However, Lisa Pearmund, wife of winery-owner Chris Pearmund, said the winery would likely fail without the revenue that events generate.
Shannon Hammond said she lives about two miles away from the winery, and questioned whether Antioch and Waterfall roads could handle additional traffic that events might generate.
“They are substandard roads,” she said, “and were not constructed to handle events such as weddings.”
Several residents who live in the subdivision that abuts the winery defended Pearmund, saying that the restoration of the manor house he and others oversaw had significantly improved its appearance and commended Pearmund for limiting the hours that events could be held.
What sparked possibly the most opposition among the commissioners was what might be below the site.
Pearmund gave the commissioners a report on a survey of the property that was conducted by a local archaeologist, which was criticized by county archaeologist Justin Patton as not meeting standards.
Pearmund said he received estimates for a study that ran between $30,000 and $50,000, which “goes against business confines,” but Patton later countered that, saying he had calculated a more reasonable estimate and would be willing to work with Pearmund.
Commissioner Russell Bryant, Woodbridge, said Pearmund was sending a “mixed message” by saying that he’s interested in preservation, but concerned about how much a survey would cost.
Because of the likelihood that the site could contain archaeological gems, a Phase I archaeological study is required to determine if any cultural resources exist in the property and if future conservational efforts would be needed. Although Pearmund and the archaeologist already recovered some artifacts, Patton said additional work needed to be done, since the report did not document what methods were used, under what conditions nor does it offer a detailed description of what was found.
Once the planning commission decides on the permit, it will sent that recommendations to the Board of County Supervisors, which is scheduled to hear the proposal Nov. 21.