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Wedding venues, wineries get closer look in Afton

Afton City City Council continued the city's discussion of agritourism during a workshop on May 23.

Agritourism businesses have been a topic of discussion in Afton for the past several months when it was sent to Afton Planning Commission.

Planning commissioners have discussed how to regulate agritourism businesses - such as wineries, event venues, apple orchards and other types of businesses - as a way to keep large agricultural properties within the city viable.

City Council took up the discussion at its workshop because Planning Commission had struggled with exactly how the city wanted to regulate the businesses and requested more direction from the council.

City Council looked at two example ordinances during its workshop - one from Murray County regulating farm wineries and an event venue ordinance from Lakeland.

A wedding party without the party?

In terms of event venues, City Council didn't appear to be in favor of much of the language in Lakeland's ordinance given that it was overly restrictive.

Lakeland's ordinance did not allow for receptions.

"How are you supposed to not have the reception there," Council Member Bill Palmquist said. "That's a joke."

However, one item in the ordinance did appeal to the council.

The ordinance stated that the event venue had to be accessory to a residence, meaning that whoever ran the facility had to live on the property.

In terms of regulation, City Council members said they would like to look at putting limitations on lot size, number of guests, but not necessarily the number of events, like in the Lakeland ordinance.

"If they are buffered by the neighbors and they don't bother anyone," Mayor Pat Snyder said, "I don't care how many they have a year."

Other factors council members said should be considered were whether or not police presence was required, increased traffic, liquor licensing and whether the city will license these venues or will bring in outside caterers who carry liquor licenses and what types of setbacks will be required.

"I like the idea of these," Palmquist said. "I've been to some of these and it's fun."

"I just want to make sure its attractive to people," Snyder said.

No 'wine-ing'

City Council looked at an ordinance from Murray County that governed farm wineries.

"I thought this was a great ordinance, actually," Snyder said.

Some of the elements of the ordinance addresses minimum acreage, hours of operation, square footage for buildings and the winemaking process.

One aspect of the ordinance that Snyder said she liked was the requirement to grow a certain percentage of the grapes used in wine on site.

"We're trying to promote agriculture with this also," she said.

Snyder said it's almost a given that a winery would have to include a vineyard.

Other possible agritourism uses that City Council would like Planning Commission to look at regulating would be "lunch on the farm" type business, possibly "camping at the farm" endeavors and apple orchards.

"It's an interesting balance you have to strike between doing everything you can to keep these farms and doing everything you can for an alternative," Palmquist said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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