MILTON, Ga. — The Painted Horse winery has a little over a month to find middle ground with neighbors who turned out Monday to protest the facility’s expansion plans which would allow larger gatherings.
In split votes, the City Council deferred two requests by the owner, Pamela Jackson, for permits to allow “agricultural-related activities.” One permit would have allowed parking, driveways, a wood pavilion and horse arenas with the 100-foot setback and allowing structures for animals to be within 100 feet of the property line. The other request was a use permit for a rural event facility.
The council voted unanimously, however, to accept Jackson’s request to withdraw her application for a use permit to allow indoor and outdoor festivals.
Those casting votes against the deferrals made it clear they didn’t want to wait, not after an hour of public comment in which nearly a dozen nearby residents spoke against any expansion of the operation. Most said they had no issues with the winery and horse facility.
But, they were unanimous in opposing large gatherings that would increase traffic on Bethany Way and amplified music that would disrupt the peace and quiet many said they have enjoyed till now.
“This is about one woman’s ambition to make money off their property,” Bethany Way resident Mimi Sullivan said.
Others said they fear the integrity of the rural setting they bought into is being threatened with commercialization. They said Bethany Way already has its share of traffic problems without adding an event facility.
City Council members made no effort to hide their disappointment with the Painted Horse’s campaign to “Save the Farm,” calling it disingenuous. They said Jackson’s claims that she is now being singled out after having operated events for two decades is false. Longtime residents who live nearby have testified the concerts and larger gatherings are new, they said.
The Painted Horse occupies about 18 acres.
“You have a lot of intensity on not a lot of acres,” Councilwoman Laura Bentley said, suggesting that Jackson meet with the neighbors to reach common ground, if there is any to be had. “That is what it is to be a neighbor.”
Councilman Paul Moore joined Bentley voting against deferring a decision on the permit application for a rural event facility. Moore cast the lone dissent on deferring a decision on the other permit application for agriculture-related activities.
Council members said they were upset to discover the Painted Horse had posted on social media as late as last Friday that the requests for permits had been deferred until July. A deferral, they said, does not happen until the City Council votes to approve one.
Moore said the Painted Horse’s tactics may have prompted some of its own supporters to skip Monday’s meeting. He said the operation’s “disinformation” had compromised public discourse.
“I couldn’t be more disappointed,” Moore said.
Councilwoman Carol Cookerly was more direct, saying Jackson is “loophole hunting” for a way to expand her operation.
“I stand in full opposition to your plans,” Cookerly said. “You just as well know that.”
Jackson and her attorneys contend they only want to hold events similar to what they have hosted in the past, with the exception of the Uncorked concert series, which Jackson said will not continue beyond this year. She also argues the events are crucial to keep her farm economically sustainable.
At Monday’s meeting, Jackson did not speak. Her attorney Collier McLeod made the deferral requests. Neither responded to the public or City Council comments.
The two permit requests are scheduled to be heard at the July 19 City Council meeting.