LAKE MILTON, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s rulings in a case involving a winery in Milton Township, Mahoning County.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled July 12 that the winery could stay open and that it fell out of the bounds of the township zoning restrictions because it was an agriculture business.
The township argued that the operation was illegal because not all of the grapes used to produce the wine were grown on the property.
According to the ruling, the Ohio Supreme Court defined that the agricultural exemption contained in Ohio zoning law applies to wineries.
Prior to starting the winery in 2005, the Sperrys contacted the Milton Township zoning inspector about obtaining any necessary permits or meeting any local requirements in starting such a business. They were reportedly told there weren’t any, and operations could begin immediately because the business would be agricultural and would exempt it from zoning, according to court records,
Later, the township reportedly received complaints about the winery and decided the winery was no longer a permissible agricultural use and instead should be considered a restaurant or retail business, which was not permitted in a residential area.
The lower courts had decided that the agricultural exemption did not apply to the winery because it did not fit in the “state’s definition of agriculture.”
The township argued that because growing grapes was secondary to wine making, it did not fit the definition.
The Sperrys argued that 5 percent of the grapes used to produce wine comes from their vineyard. They also told the court that the primary business is bottling and selling wine and not grape cultivation.
It states that the township has no power to stop the “use of buildings or structures incident to the use for agricultural purposes of the land on which such buildings or structures are located, including buildings or structures that are used primarily for vinting and selling wine and that are located on land any part of which is used for viticulture.”
The court stated in the ruling that the provision makes it clear that it is exempted from zoning for winery buildings as long as grapes are also grown on the property.
According to the ruling, the township does not need to refer to the definition of agriculture or the number of grapes or whether grape growing or processing are the primary uses of the property.