Residents Change Opinions on Chamard

CLINTON- The Sept. 5 public hearing brought a change of heart for residents who were in opposition to Chamard Vineyard's application to expand its farm tourism uses. After nearly 20 residents stood up in favor of the application, the hearing was officially closed.

Chamard is applying for a special permit to allow the use of retail and wholesale of agriculture products, retail of handcraft and artisan products, agriculture education instruction, demonstration and production of furniture, and restaurant with 35 seats.

Opposition was strong at previous public hearings, with dozens of residents voicing concerns. The majority of the resistance was to the proposed bistro, from past noise complaints based on the eight events Chamard is allowed to host, and traffic and safety concerns.

What caused so many people to change their minds in a matter of a few short weeks? According to those who spoke at the hearing, it was due to the fact that representatives from Chamard, including General Manager Jeff Vernon, reached out to several neighbors of the vineyards.

After consulting with a sound engineer and standing on a land abutter's property line to hear what the music sounded like, Vernon is also proposing to turn off music at the events at 8 p.m., versus 10 p.m., to help limit the noise.

"The music was crystal clear in [the neighbor's] back yard and this is unacceptable. I don't want to be that as a neighbor. We want to be different than that, we want to do better than that, so we can change that so we talked that night and we agreed that 8 p.m. would be a much better time to end the music," Vernon said. "We're going to work with a sound engineer to make the sound better."

Vernon also would like to reorganize the eight events the vineyards is allowed per year, organizing more public events versus private events for which he has to shut the vineyard down.

"Next year's events are going to be different. We're going to manage the music and we're going to have the language determined how its going to be...Something that is inclusive to the neighborhood or the community as compared to exclusive private events where we shut down," the general manager said.

Some residents who spoke out against the application at former public hearings stood up to give the vineyards offering their blessing on its proposal after Vernon spoke.

"You've heard me talk here before adamantly against the application. A couple weeks ago I reached out to Mr. Vernon. We had a productive conversations on all the issues surrounding where we were-the confusion about the restaurant, the disturbances in the events, and the whole list. I now will have to say I support the bistro...It's a good plan," resident David Lee told the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC). "Along with that he and his team made some extremely good recommendations and brought some extremely talented people in to look at what they are doing.

"I think he needs that little bistro to get moving. There was no communication between Chamard and the neighborhood and I'd have to say that drastically changed in the last few weeks so my wife and I would like to offer our support," Lee continued.

Other residents supported the business's proposal for economic development reasons.

"Chamard is a great business in Clinton. If we have a viable business in town and we are not supporting them, what does that say-Clinton's closed for business? I don't think that's the way we want to go," Sandy Luke said. "Well of course we're not bringing businesses in if we can't even support the [existing] businesses that are successful and are bringing people in from Clinton."

"I'm very much in favor of Chamard's plan. I'm in favor of he vibrancy of Clinton and I think Chamard gives us that opportunity to see economic development," Laura Attanasio said. "Chamard is a beautiful place to go. If they don't stay in business, what happens to that land? Do property owners want to see little houses suddenly pop up on that land?"

With the public hearing on this application now closed, the Clinton Police Commission was scheduled to meet
Sept. 10 (after press time) to review the traffic study submitted at the last public hearing. It will then return to PZC for review and a decision.

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