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Winery wins big at state’s top court

Published: Wed, July 13, 2011 @ 12:08 a.m.
Place:Myrddin Winery

3020 Scenic Ave., Berlin Center, OH

By Peter H. Milliken



A tiny Lake Milton winery has won a big victory at the Ohio Supreme Court for itself and for Ohio’s agricultural interests.

The state’s top court unanimously ruled Tuesday that Myrddin Winery, 3020 Scenic Drive, is exempt from Milton Township zoning regulations.

The effect of the decision is that the winery may remain in its current location in a residential neighborhood off South East River Road along the east shore of Lake Milton.

Saying every Ohio township resident has a legal right to farm, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Mahoning County Farm Bureau declared their support for the winery while the case was pending in the courts.

“The court’s decision clarifies and affirms an important section of state law that limits counties’ and townships’ ability to regulate agriculture through zoning,” said Chad Endsley, director of agricultural law at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

The state Legislature has exempted agricultural operations meeting certain criteria from some aspects of local zoning laws because it has recognized that “un-uniform local regulations can be a significant impediment to farming,” he added.

The decision’s primary effect “will be to open doors in the wine-making industry,” said David S. Pennington of Dublin, the lawyer representing Myrddin. “It’s an affirmation of the state Legislature’s intent to support the wine industry in Ohio,” he added.

“A township has no zoning authority over the use of buildings or structures for the vinting and selling of wine on property that is also used for viticulture [the cultivation of grapes],” the top court said, referring to provisions of state legislation.

In its ruling, the top court overruled the 7th District Court of Appeals and Judge John M. Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in the case of Jenifer Terry, zoning inspector, v. Gayle K. Sperry, winery operator.

The appeals court upheld Judge Durkin’s decision, which barred Sperry from operating the winery at her present location, which is zoned as a single-family residential district.

Terry had sought Judge Durkin’s order based on neighbors’ complaints about the winery’s traffic and retail activity in a residential area.

In its ruling, the top court acknowledged that only 5 percent of Myrddin’s sales are derived from grapes produced on winery property.

However, the court ruled: “The statute does not establish a minimum number of vines needed for cultivation to constitute viticulture. The growing and harvesting of grapes on the Sperry property thus satisfies the term ‘viticulture.’”

During the legal battle, some of the winery’s neighbors posted signs, saying “Winos go home” and “Uphold Judge Durkin’s ruling. Close this bar.”

Atty. Mark S. Finamore of Warren, who represented the township, could not be reached to comment.


1dd933(305 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Here is a clear case of the Nazi run state government allowing a business to run roughshod over the people in the neighborhood who don't want a bar.

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2wineisgood(6 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Calling our government "Nazi" certainly lends credibility to your statement.

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3commyliberal(94 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

WOW! Where do these judges live? I hope one of their neighbors will plant a few grape vines & open a bar next door to them!

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4Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

"Calling our government "Nazi" certainly lends credibility to your statement."

- -The Courts have silenced the will of the people .Wasn't this a Nazi attribute?

How about folks being stripped searched at airports and body scanned the Nazis would have loved that .

How about the Court allowing utility companies to make alphabet soup out of trees maintained by citizens and destroying them.

How about the Congress not allowing folks to bring suit against it for grandfathering in mercury in the inoculations knowing full well they were poison.How about the secret meetings are leaders attend all over the globe that our press isn't allowed to report about to its electorate?
Allowing a private bank to deregulate home loans and then the individual who is in charge of said act is promoted to secretary of the treasury by the government.A reward for plunging our country into a depression?

I thought the government was supposed to be us right? The folks who are in DC are supposed to represent our interests not business and banking-that was the last thing the founders wanted.

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5JJacobs(4 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Commyliberal... wow what a name... Anyways, I was unaware that it was a left wing thing to not drink. I'll keep that in mind in the future. Also, have you ever actually been to a bar? I can say that while I'm not a huge fan of bars, your "comparison" (If you call it that, you would actually have had to frequent both to compare), you're more than entitled to your opinion, and it's good to know you won't be going there anytime soon.

DD933- A Nazi run state government? You're like one of those college kids that thought the hippies were cool, and wanted to whine just to hear the sound of your voice. Unless you can argue with intelligence and substance, you should probably quit whining.

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6grayarea(5 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

okay you go to a winery to consume alcohol and bs with friends. you go to a bar to consume alcohol and bs with friends. so some get drunk on beer and whiskey etc and some get drunk on wine. and some don't get drunk at all, but if it was just grape juice they were serving , very few would be there, just to bs with friends. just like people don't go to the bar to drink pepsi.
so this means that anyone who wants to, can plant a grape vine anywhere in milton township, or any other township, with no regard for zoning laws , neighborhoods, and open a winery.
i wonder how many people in milton township would be happy with a winery next door?

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7wineisgood(6 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

No - that's the opposite of this case. The court has UPHELD the zoning statutes of the State. The township was attempting to circumvent them, after originally agreeing with them. If you don't want a winery (or any other agricultural enterprise) to ever appear in your neighborhood - know the ordinance before you build your house there. This ruling has changed nothing. The law is the same as it ever was. It was simply upheld.

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8grayarea(5 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

the winery was the last house built in that neigborhood, nobody knew when they built their house or bought, that someone could plant a grape vine and open a winery
and that is exactly what the ruling is, anyone who wants to plant a grapevine in this township or any other can open a winery. so watch where you build or buy.
they did not uphold zoning statues of the state. the state said their laws for wineries prevent a township from applying the same zoning rules that they do to everyone else. winieres get a bye because the state wants the money they get from the taxes on the sales. so they protect them. if it was any other business it would be shut down. nobody was circumventing anything
and yes much has changed, just keep an eye on how the rest of the townships in this state respond to this ruling
because it means...if you plant a grapevine on your property you can open a winery...and that township cannot stop you.

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9Nogeneralities(3 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

It doesn't mean that if you plant a vine you can open a winery. People go running off making broad assumptions as usual. There are many other requirements that you must overcome to receive your A2 license. People don't understand that this applies only to zoning. The requirements for the building department agricultural exemption are different (e.g. more than half of the production must be from your farm).

I have been to bars and I have been to wineries. To refer to the two as being the same is rediculous. I hope I don't have to explain why...

This is a two way problem in that the residents assume the worst and the winery owner goes into instant defense. I wonder how much time was spent with the parties involved sitting together at a table to work on manageable solutions to minimize the impact to each other? People likely just drew their line in the sand and wouldn't budge. Just the thing we need when other countries are surpassing us economically and we can't even make a small business work within a rural township..... Wasteful.

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10TB(1167 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

I would think that the opposite of a nazi government would be to let this business operate as it sees fit.

Contradiction running rampant this afternoon

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11grayarea(5 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

the obstacles are not too hard too overcome to get an A2 license. The state wants to hand them out. They are the ones who first drove down the gravel one lane road past the houses on the dead end street and went ahead and gave them a license. all you have to do is fill out the paper work and pay the permit fees. bottom line one grapevine equals a winery.

there are lots of bars i have been in my share and they all have their own personality. some terrible some great.
you are going to a location to drink alcoholic beverage, bar or winery. what is the difference?

according to the way the law is written i think the supreme court is right. they don't make the laws they define what the legislature writes. i think this is the first time since the law was written that anyone has pushed the limit of any to mean just one. if i am not mistaken these laws that protect wineries were written around prohibition, they were afraid that townships and counties against alcohol would shut them down. i don't think they saw them being used to open a winery on a postage stamp in a residental neighborhood. look for changes in the law. it will not effect this winery but they will close this loophole for future cases.

see this article

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12wineisgood(6 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

It's not accurate to say something like, "wineries get a pass.." The statute applies to all kinds of agricultural uses. If your neighbor opens an apple pie stand, a bee-keeping and honey enterprise, or a smelly pig farm, they will also "get a pass." Somewhere along the way, the use of zoning was turned on its head; you have the right to use your land as you please; zoning boards came later. You probably pass by or patronize other businesses that exist on the same principal. It's not a "loophole" - it is the reason for the statute. To rule out wineries - THAT would be a loophole. That must make many folks uncomfortable, not realizing that is the case, but that's no reason to change the law or farther damage our local economy by putting someone else out of business.

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13Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

@TB " I would think that the opposite of a nazi government would be to let this business operate as it sees fit." - - -You would be wrong.When business runs a government you have fascism . And corporate fascism is what is rampant in the U.S. and around the globe.

Letting international banks and multinational corporations run wild has caused many if not all our economic woes as well as our loss of individual freedoms.

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14Nogeneralities(3 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

I assume that grayarea has gone through the experience of starting up a small vineyard/winery and was handed their A2 license.... I too speak from experience and my experience was that it required multiple inspections or reviews by multiple departments (health department, EPA Water, EPA Sewer, building department, zoning, TTB, etc). Then there are the requirements to get your labels approved (COLA). That will get you a license to ship wine off site. Then you must go through multiple site inspections to get approved to sell on site. Then there is the capital equipment cost. Then there is the restriction that you can only sell wine you produce on site. So if someone's spouse wants a beer, they must go elsewhere. This all took over 30 months to achieve. Then you get the luxury of maintaining that one vine so it doesn't die (pruning, spray, rodents, deer, mold, cold, spring frost, etc). In reality, most start with a few vines until they learn the ropes. There isn't a single proven way to succesfully raise the vines.

Doesn't sound much like a bar and it doesn't sound like the shortest or cheapest path to a bar if that is what is being suggested above. (I guess I had to explain part of the difference after all).

Meet the people who start these things. The highest percentage of the winery owners don't do it for a living. They work elsewhere to make a living so they can do this. Again, not typical of most bar owners.

I will throw out my generality. Wine lovers are a very different crowd from bar patrons. They are not looking to get drunk and raise hell. They are looking to appreciate the outdoors, understand the wine making process, and enjoy the complexity and diversity that the earth produces and vinters sculpt. I worry more about the safety of parties thrown by the neighbors (who aren't required to have TIPS training).

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15TB(1167 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

Start a landfill in your backyard! Open a brothel in your spare bedroom! It's your property after all!

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16grayarea(5 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

health department, EPA Water, EPA Sewer, building department, zoning, TTB, etc).

why do you mention zoning? zoning now has nothing to do with wineries. do you not get the memo? go back and read this article.

They are looking to appreciate the outdoors, understand the wine making process, and enjoy the complexity and diversity that the earth produces and vinters sculpt.

all could be done with grape juices with no alcohol
so why the alcohol?

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17Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

"Outlaw zoning! With land it is the highest and best use, not what outside liberals think is best. Zoning is a taking and violation of a property owner's rights." - - -Pretty absurd.Zoning exists to protect folks who are property owners and like minded.It isn't perfect but nothing on earth is perfect.

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18Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

"To rule out wineries - THAT would be a loophole. That must make many folks uncomfortable, not realizing that is the case, but that's no reason to change the law or farther damage our local economy by putting someone else out of business." - - the Court interpreted the zoning as upheld that is their opinion. Many others may feel that it is a bad decision.When one studies Constitutional law and find that our Courts look to precedents based on old English law and one one sees how the law is made up from case to case it is quite an eye opener.There is a lack of real continuity.At any rate our unrepresentative are supposed to make the laws not the the Court.

It was my understanding that the lions share of the grapes were shipped into this place. As for a farm I don't see this place as a farm any more than a restaurant is a farm if they have an herb garden outside.It seems like a pretty loose interpretation.

Another danger of a decision such as this is to consider large gardens as farms and have them require fees and so on generally associated with a farm.I say this while I am for the small farmers and I am a fan of Ohio farmers they are good hard working people that often get shafted .

I just don't want to give the government any more excuses to hamstring our rights.

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19JJacobs(4 comments)posted 4 years, 7 months ago

So, why not the alcohol? By your statement, greyarea, it doesn't matter, right? Obviously Myrddin has been given quick, easy access to do business, right? Two or so years of trying to get licences, dealing with zoning officials, etc... Over 3 years of legal battles to uphold what had been approved in the first place...

Are you aware what has to be done to acquire a Sunday licence? If I am not mistaken, it requires petition give signed by a number of local inhabitants. Also, if I'm not mistaken, those neighbors that are so unhappy about the winery? Why are their names signed on that petition? I would come up with a witty faux answer, but the question holds up just fine on its own.

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