The Cache County Council looks poised to pass an ordinance that would open the door to wineries in unincorporated Cache County — after a little more time to hammer out the details.
The council continued discussion of proposed Ordinance 2021-05 during its meeting Tuesday evening, but in an informal poll, four members said that they would vote in favor based on planned adjustments and additions to the ordinance’s language.
“We’ve got to save our ag lands and have a tool to do that,” Council Chair Gina Worthen said.
Joining Worthen in informal support of the measure was Barbara Tidwell, Paul Borup and David Erickson. Gordon Zilles and Nolan Gunnell said they were inclined to vote against the ordinance, while Karl Ward remained undecided.
The council has been workshopping and discussing the matter since September of last year. Agritourism businesses have said selling locally made wine and hosting tastings would help them stay viable and resist real estate development pressure, but some residents and council members have asked whether it would substantially change Cache Valley’s culture, contribute to alcoholism, or create a slippery slope that would encourage breweries or marijuana crops in unincorporated county.
Gordon Zilles has said he doesn’t buy into arguments that Cache County is too restrictive with alcohol. During the council’s Feb. 9 meeting, Zilles said he took a trip to the state liquor store “for the very fist time” to see how hard it is to get a drink locally. After they checked his driver’s license, he said he asked what he could buy.
“And the little gal that was there, she says, ‘Well, Mr. Zilles, you can buy anything you want,’” Zilles said. “And I said, ‘Well, how much of it can I buy? Can I buy a case? Can I buy a wagonload? What can I buy?’ (And the worker replied) ‘Anything that you can pay for, you can have.’ And so it became evident to me that the comment that you can’t buy a drink in Cache Valley is wrong. We’re not really talking about that in this here wine business.”
In Tuesday’s meeting, Borup responded to Zilles’s previous outing: “Like Gordy, I decided to take a field trip.”
Borup set two bottles of alcohol on the council table, one he said he purchased from the liquor store in Logan and one from the privately owned state liquor package agency at 19 W. Main Street in Richmond.
“We’re not changing Cache Valley by doing this,” Borup said. “We are keeping Cache Valley what it is … we are upholding property rights. And we’re keeping the county county, as people like to say. So I’m all in. I’m voting for it, and then we can hammer out some changes.”
Borup’s demonstration did not appear to sway Zilles.
“My report after going there (to the liquor store) is that you can buy all of it you want,” Zilles said.
Nolan Gunnell said he’s read a lot of emails in support of the ordinance and that he likes it from a property rights standpoint, but that he was ultimately leaning against the change Tuesday night due to opposition he’s heard from residents in his district.
Erickson said for him, the issue boils down to freedom of choice, not agricultural viability, personal morals or tourism benefits.
“You hear all this, ‘Oh we’ve got to have it to even survive’ … I’m sorry,” Erickson said. “I listened to all of that and say malarkey on all of it.
Erickson said he’d likely vote in favor of the ordinance to support private property rights and because of “something that God blessed us with, and that’s the freedom to choose. … I think that’s probably more important to me than all these little things that muddle up the process.”
Ward said he was still undecided on the issue largely because the ordinance does not stipulate that wineries would have to use a certain percentage of locally grown crops.
“We’ve simply said we’re going to allow manufacturing,” Ward said. “And that’s where it comes down to me. Is it manufacturing or is it agriculture? And that’s where I really don’t know.”
Worthen said the council planned to address that issue in a separate land-use ordinance that would need to be drafted, have a public hearing and get council approval before a winery could actually be approved.
“We’ve split this up into two parts so we don’t go to all the work of doing the agricultural and the land-use side of it and then just vote it down,” Worthen said.
The ordinance would also prohibit possession or consumption of alcohol at the Fairgrounds, including the rodeo arena and Event Center, unless it as at a private event with the county’s written consent.
Nailing down the details of that approval process — such as which county office requests would go through and what criteria officials would apply to approve or deny them — were among the issues that prompted the council to ultimately table the ordinance on Tuesday.