Sep. 14—COVENTRY — Neighbors of Cassidy Hill Winery complained to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday about speeding and the amount of traffic that the winery brings in, in addition to business parking spilling out on the road.
The PZC held a public hearing for residents to air their complaints, after they started voicing concerns to police and Planning and Development Director Eric Trott in August. Many of the complaints also contend that more people show up to events at the winery than is allowed by its statement of use, included in a special permit issued in 2011.
At the hearing, Trott went over the criteria outlined in the winery's special permit and noted that it has violated certain terms but also has complied with some criteria.
For instance, audience size for live music events has been above the 150-person limit outlined in the permit, but the winery has not been open past 10 p.m. as stipulated. It also does not host events past September, when it gets dark sooner in the evening. The winery has stopped hosting events for the season this year.
The special permit also stipulates that there would be a gravel road built to access more parking in a lot south of the winery. This road was never built, but there have been people hired by the winery to assist with parking.
"It is customary for wineries to have these events to bolster it and make it a destination," Trott said, adding that Cassidy Hill has "acted in the spirit of being compliant."
The winery is not allowed to hold more than one event per weekend and up to 15 events can be hosted per year. The winery recently held two events the weekend of Aug. 20 and has gone over 15 events in total this year, according to Trott.
Bob Chipkin, one of the owners of the winery, said the business has been hosting social events such as live music for 10 years with no complaints.
"It's something we will have to work through," Chipkin said, later adding, "it's not like I willfully ignored the permit." He admitted at the hearing that more than 150 people have come to the winery's events.
Nancy Mantlik, who lives on Cassidy Hill Road, spoke over Zoom at the hearing and said she is "concerned with the speeding and the traffic."
She said she was attacked by a person leaving an event hosted by the winery, and that her grandson was almost hit by a car last year due to the traffic. She admitted to putting cones in the road to help slow the traffic during these events, but stopped when she learned this was illegal.
Kelley Barber of Cassidy Hill Road complained that people park on the street during the winery's events, preventing emergency vehicles and food trucks from passing safely on the narrow road.
Scott Francis, a Cassidy Hill Road resident and former winery employee, said speeding is usually not an issue and the cones in the street could have impeded an ambulance responding to a potential emergency.
He also claimed a neighbor who lived on the street was stopping people to tell them the speed limit was 15 mph even though the posted limit on signs is 25 mph.
"It's a very family friendly atmosphere," he said.
Timothy Owens, who worked at the winery for five to six years, said there have been instances when emergency vehicles were able to get to the winery easily.
"They could get in and out efficiently and take care of the issue," he said.
Coventry resident Joy Dipon also voiced support for the winery.
"People concerned about traffic on a Friday night should think about what would happen if a builder came in to put a housing development in. The view is still pristine. It's one night a week from May to September," she said.
PZC Vice Chairperson Christine Patttee suggested that people register for events so winery staff can have an idea of how many people are coming and what the traffic will be like.
Trott emphasized the town does not want to limit Chipkin's business.
"The philosophy of the commission is to be as supportive to the business as possible and also give it room to grow," he said.
"We want to come up with solutions rather than restrictions," PZC member Darby Pollansky said.
Chipkin said he is willing to cooperate with the town to find a solution, "It will be an ongoing issue," he said after the meeting.
Ben covers Coventry and Tolland for the Journal Inquirer.