Painted horse

The Painted Horse Winery and Vineyards, Milton’s only farm winery, has requested three permits to come into compliance with local ordinances.

MILTON, Ga. — Milton residents got a chance to learn more about upcoming permitting and rezoning requests at Community Zoning Information Meetings March 23.

The Painted Horse Winery and Vineyards, at Bethany Way and Hopewell Road, is seeking three use permits to continue its business model — for agricultural-related activities, to operate as a rural event facility and as a festival indoor/outdoor event space. The Painted Horse is the city’s only farm winery.

The requests have raised the eyebrows of some neighbors who voiced concerns over traffic, safety, noise and other issues at the informational meeting, but the company insists it is not requesting the permits for any new operations. Rather, the winery is coming into compliance with the city.

“There isn’t an intent to change what is happening on the site right now,” Ellen Smith, a representative for the Painted Horse, said.

The permit for “agricultural activities” allows for camps, birthday parties, painting classes and community events. Smith said the farm has been hosting parties for kids and other similar events for decades.

The rural event facility permit will allow for weddings at the site and is similar to the permit granted to Little River Farms, Milton Zoning Manager Robyn MacDonald said.

The indoor/outdoor festival permit request would allow for acoustic concerts on the farm.

Residents, alarmed by the hours of operation allowed under a festival permit, raised concerns over noise emanating from the concerts. Hours permitted for festivals under the code are from Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with music ending no later than 10 p.m. 

However, Painted Horse owner Pamela Jackson said those allowable times earlier in the day are only related to farm and equestrian related activities, not concerts. She added that the business only operates Thursday through Sunday and is only open as late as 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Jackson said prior concerts at the venue have ended at 7 p.m., and Milton Police have conducted sound decibel checks to ensure the music is not exceeding allowable limits.

Smith said the company plans to fully comply with the city’s noise ordinance and hours of operation, including for weddings and concerts.

All three use permits come with certain stipulations, but they can later be altered by the City Council if the board chooses to approve the requests.

For agricultural uses, events cannot exceed 250 people and can only occur from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Weddings and concerts would also be capped at 250 attendees, with concerts of 100 more people limited to Saturdays once a month. The Painted Horse can still apply for two additional special event permits each year.

Sound limits on weddings and concerts would be capped at 60 decibels of continuous noise at the site’s property lines, with a peak sound of 75 decibels. Those requirements are lower than what the city imposed on Matilda’s, a Birmingham Crossroads concert venue approved by the city in 2018. After its initial approval of the venue, the City Council voted to reduce the limit of continuous noise from 75 to 70 decibels at Matilda’s property lines.

The Painted Horse also presented its site plan, which calls for a new winery shelter for inclement weather and a proposed, 12,000-square-foot building for winery use. Smith said the building is not included in the use-permit request, but the company wanted “transparency” in showing residents a future proposal for the site.

The Painted Horse’s permit requests are the latest in a string of talks between the company and Milton officials.

Since the winery opened in 2019, city officials and the Painted Horse’s operators have been in discussions on the city’s alcohol codes. Owner Pamela Jackson previously said the state’s laws related to farm wineries are far more lenient than Milton’s regulations. For its part, Milton has made several updates to its alcohol ordinances to allow the Painted Horse to expand its offerings, including a decision to allow the sale of wines manufactured outside of Georgia.

More recently, the winery applied to offer beer and spirits for on-site consumption, which drew some opposition from a few city officials and nearby residents. The request was later withdrawn because of “a disagreement between Ms. Jackson and the City as to the extent of permissible or potentially legally grandfathered uses of the property,” according to a letter from Smith.

Just about two miles from the Painted Horse, a new subdivision has also been proposed and was up for review March 23.

Applicant Vio Hodis has requested to rezone a 9-acre property at 14140 Freemanville Road, near the intersection of Redd Road, from AG-1 to a Community Unit Plan for six homes. According to a letter from Hodis’ representative, the request is to create a “family compound.” One home already exists on the property and is included in the proposed site plan.

The proposal calls for a private road off Freemanville with a cul-de-sac that would serve all residences. Properties would range from 1 acre to 1.7 acres.

The subdivision and the Painted Horse permit requests are set to go before the Design Review Board for a courtesy review April 13. As scheduled, the requests would then go before the Planning Commission April 28 before a review by the City Council in June.

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