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Winery entrepreneur pulls zoning change, forges ahead on plans for property

POSTED: April 13, 2017 7:43 p.m.
/Photo courtesy of Brad Walton

A 5-acre winery and vineyard is in the works for Flowery Branch on this Conner Road property pictured on Thursday.

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A developing winery/vineyard in South Hall put some of its plans on hold in the face of likely defeat before the Hall County Board of Commissioners.

Brad Walton was working through a zoning change that would have allowed his developing operation, Dolcezza Winery and Vineyard on Conner Road, to host events.

Georgia vineyards are becoming wedding venues, and more and more business owners are taking advantage of the additional revenue to keep their operations running.

“That can be very important,” Walton told the Times before the commission meeting on Thursday. “I don’t want to say that it’s free money — it’s not. There’s a lot of effort that goes into a wedding, but you’re taking advantage of the environment that you’ve created.”

Walton, who lives in Flowery Branch, was on track for a hearing before commissioners, but the business owner pulled his request for a zoning change because it was likely going to be rejected by the commission, he said.

The withdrawal won’t change his plans for his winery and vineyard, Walton said.

His 5-acre lot is already in an agriculture zone, and he said he’s already started development on his vineyard and is making plans for a two-story tasting room, retail shop and cafe.

Several Conner Road residents said during the March 6 Hall County Planning Commission meeting that the business would draw too much traffic into the area and onto Conner Road, a small lane off of the eastern shore of Lake Lanier. The Hall Planning Commission had recommended denying the rezoning request during its March 6 meeting.

Planning Commission Chairman Don Smallwood said at that meeting that Walton’s plans for the property and the resulting traffic on Conner Road “looks to me like that’s a recipe for problems.”

Walton’s decision to withdraw a request for an agri-entertainment district on his property won’t prevent the opening of the vineyard, he said, but it means he’ll have to put off his plans to host events for at least a year.

“I could be a perfectly successful winery-vineyard and never do any events,” he said. “But I would love to do that. It’s a big piece of the revenue model if you can make it work.”

There’s a three-year wait for grapes from the vines that Walton is planting throughout the next couple of weeks and another year to age the wine. Walton is weighing other revenue streams — whether to buy grapes similar to those he would grow on his land to demonstrate his style or to branch into ciders or meads.

The vineyard won’t lose out on much revenue from withdrawing the zoning request because the construction on the property in its first year would prevent any paid events, according to Walton.

He said he plans to bring the request back in a year after he’s proved he can be a good neighbor in the area.



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