John Burks nearly lost the only winery in York County, because his vision for the business didn’t fit the county’s vision for his property.
A solution could help open the door for more wineries, breweries, microbreweries and event centers in the county. The county planning commission will meet March 20 to consider 10 new ordinances proposals to define wineries and event venues of varying size. They also detail land uses that tend to stir up neighbors, like mines and quarries, landfills and public service.
“We are behind the times if our ordinances don’t support the popularity and benefit of wineries and breweries in York County,” said York County Councilwoman Allison Love.
As he tells it, Burks wasn’t concerned the winery would close for violating the county’s zoning code for holding events such as goat yoga, or for having more than three customer vehicles on site at a time and not having parking spaces installed.
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“I was going to appeal it to the circuit court, the South Carolina Supreme Court and federal Supreme Court,” Burks said. “I was going to tie it up for 10 years.”
The county ruled twice last year that Cat’s Paw Winery was using the property on Fayrene Road in Rock Hill to operate a business rather than within the zoning code allowing for a home with some wine sales on the side. But in January, the zoning board reversed its decision. Eight people, including Councilman William “Bump” Roddey, spoke on behalf of the winery.
“We beat the county,” Burks said. “We’re still in business. We got what we wanted.”
Yet part of the county’s contention stuck.
“I can’t do outside events,” Burks said. “The county shut me down on that one.”
Burks said his business -- open Thursdays through Saturdays -- has “kept on trucking.” However, he says the county’s zoning limits his and other small businesses.
“A person should be able to do a business and do a business as a small business without interference of a city or a county ordinance,” Burks said. “Of course, there should be some regulations.”
In September, Councilman Robert Winkler said three or four small events centers were looking to open in the county “and we’re telling them there’s no way they can.”
At the same time, Love said someone was interested in opening a site in her district, with a land sale “hinging on what those people are going to be able to do.”
Council hired a consultant in fall to look at what’s allowed in county zoning districts, including how and when to allow concrete plants, wineries, special events facilities, outdoor recreation and temporary use festivals.
Burks said part of the issue is the unique nature of his business.
“We’re the only ones,” he said. “The whole thing was they’d never had a winery. They didn’t know what to do with us.”
The new county zoning rules aim to specify where all those uses should be allowed in the county and where they shouldn’t. Then if the county determines a winery or rock quarry isn’t a fit at one site, planners can show other zoning options or landowners could consider other parts of the county.
“Even though concrete plants, quarries and landfills are allowed in areas zoned industrial, I believe they still need additional consideration,” Love said. “Updating current ordinance language will allow these uses when approved as special exceptions.”