Ohio Supreme Court decision keeps Milton Twp. winery open

LAKE MILTON, Ohio — The Ohio Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s rulings in a case involving a winery in Milton Township, Mahoning County.

Gayle K. Sperry, her son, Kristofer Sperry, and his wife, Evelyn, are the owners and operators of the Myrddin Winery. They filed a request to the Ohio Supreme Court in May 2010.

Ruling

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.

Background

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.

Both the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas and the Seventh District Court of Appeals agreed with the township, and held that it could exert zoning authority over the winery.

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.

Definition

The Ohio Supreme Court did not look to the definition regarding agriculture but instead turned to the Ohio Revised Code 519.21, which contains another section on agricultural exemption.

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.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

One Comment

  1. David Pennington says:

    Kristy

    Unlike some of your peers, this is very balanced and fair report of the High Court’s decision in the Myrddin case. Thank you.

    David S. Pennington
    Attorney for Myrddin Winery

Leave a Comment

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.

eNewsletter

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Services

Recent News