CANTON – Cherokee County Commission Chairman Harry Johnston on Tuesday gave updates on the status of a proposed farm winery ordinance and a proposed noise ordinance, though there are not yet expected dates for those subjects to undergo public hearings.

Farm winery ordinance

Johnston shed light Tuesday on a “check-the-box ordinance” that county officials and staff have been discussing, which he said would allow the county to allow certain activities at farm wineries on a case-by-case basis.

At the base level, Johnston said, a proposed farm winery would need to request a special-use permit and, if approved, would be allowed to grow grapes, manufacture wine, sell bottles of that wine and offer samples at its facilities.

If the winery wanted to do more – for example, have a full kitchen or restaurant, sell other manufacturers’ wines or serve other types of alcohol – applicants would need to announce that intent on the application documents. Those requests would then be reviewed and ultimately approved or denied by the board of commissioners.

“Of course that would be based largely on the location and proximity to residential uses and the disturbance that might create,” Johnston said.

The county’s farm winery ordinance has been a high-profile discussion item on the board of commissioners’ agenda for months, hinging mainly on a dispute between county officials and the Sutallee farm winery, Big Door Vineyards.

Johnston said Tuesday he was not sure that the vineyard and the county would be able to come to an agreement that avoided litigation.

“I don’t know that we’ll be able to come to terms with the current winery in Sutallee area. They and we seem to have some differences that might be irresolvable, and it could lead to litigation with them. I would like to head that off, but their requests may be beyond what we would be willing to approve in their case,” he said.

Rodney Alldredge

Big Door Vineyards owner Rodney Alldredge said Wednesday that he will be pursuing litigation in the coming months if the county is not willing to grandfather his winery into what he said were prior assurances made to him.

Big Door Vineyards owner Rodney Alldredge echoed that sentiment on Wednesday. Alldredge told the Tribune that he would be pursuing litigation in the coming months if the county is not willing to grandfather his winery into what he said were prior assurances made to him.

Those assurances, he said, include his ability to have a catering kitchen and correspondence from planning staff saying he would be able to have outdoor loudspeakers and beer and liquor licenses.

“I feel like we ought to be grandfathered in to be able to do all the things they said we could do before,” he said. “I have proof that they had given me permission to do all these things initially, and I had spent over $1 million before they even started talking about doing anything different.”

Noise ordinance

Johnston also introduced the suggestion of a three-tiered, time-of-day noise ordinance using decibel measurements for enforcement. The new proposal, which at this point is also only up for discussion, would limit noise entering someone else’s property to the specified decibel amount.

Johnston said the restrictions would consider 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. as a daytime period, 7 – 11 p.m. an evening period and 11 p.m. – 7 a.m. the following day as a night period. Daytime decibel restrictions would be set at a maximum of 70, evening at 60 and night at 50. Sunday mornings until noon would also fall into the night restrictions.

“I think we have found that it’s necessary to put some sort of decibel level in because, among other things, the lack of specificity in our current ordinance makes it hard to enforce. The judges are reluctant to impose a fine on somebody when the definition is it’s so loud that it’s disturbing to your neighbor,” Johnston said. “We would obviously have to have some exceptions, because there are some things that make more noise that can’t reasonably be avoided.”

Possible exceptions may include school activities and lawn mowing during reasonable hours. Johnston also addressed a man who spoke during the public comment portion of the agenda about concerns with a private band using school property near his home to practice their music. Johnston said he was not sure at this point whether their activities would qualify for exception.

The noise ordinance discussion also included suggestions for the restriction of firearm noise in certain areas of the county, another topic which has frustrated residents in some larger-tract neighborhoods.

“Many of the complaints we get about noise do involve gunfire. It’s a very tough thing to regulate, because you’re getting into gun rights and the NRA and a lot of people around these parts like their guns and like the right to shoot them,” Johnston said.

While regulating gunfire can be tricky, he said, the currently suggested solution would be to allow “an unlimited noise exception during daytime hours on properties that otherwise are not restricted on the discharge of firearms.” He continued, however, that non-emergency firearm discharge be restricted to parcels of at least 1 acre. Johnston said that restriction would be separate from the noise ordinance.

The Cherokee County Board of Commissioners meet at 6 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at the Northside Hospital Cherokee Conference Center, 1130 Bluffs Parkway in Canton. Agendas, minutes and videos, including live streams are available at legacy.cherokeega.com/apps/transparency/novusSearch.cfm.

Thomas is a government, business, crime and features reporter for the Cherokee Tribune and Ledger News. He is a graduate of Kennesaw State University and currently lives in Kennesaw, Georgia.

(4) comments

habrams01

Noise abatement is important and can not be easily defined. What is the db (decibel) level at a given distance from it's source? When my neighbor has his rock band practice in his empty basement and I can hear it, with my insulated windows closed from over 100 yards away what is too loud. When my unknown neighbors behind my property fire off shotguns/rifles what are the limits? It is not easy to answer and taking the time to consider the aspects is actually pretty smart. I've looked at ordinances from Cobb County, GA and Orange County, Fla. just to make myself aware of the wide disparity that exists. I even met with Commissioner Karen Bosch those many years ago at the same time Mr. Johnston looked at this issue when he was a Post Commissioner and not County Chair.

WatcherinGa

It's time for someone to run against Harry. He has never been in the winery business and I doubt he has psychic powers to foretell the future. This is just bad government, with the Commissioners assuming the role of overlord running their fiefdoms. Politicians are like diapers. They should be changed frequently, and for the same reason.

Cheroko21

Republicans purport to love freedom from paperwork and government red tape for business but all I am hearing is someone who is creating more red tape and is afraid of the NRA and gun owners.[thumbdown]

habrams01

There was an election in Nov. 2018 and Mr. Johnston won that election. Did you vote? He is the County Commission Chair for the next four (4) years.

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