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Chester County Press

Conditional-use hearing for a proposed vineyard and tasting room takes place in Penn Township

01/31/2022 09:25PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Pallares Family Holdings, LLC is seeking approval to operate a vineyard and tasting room on the property at 377 and 378 Hood Lane in Penn Township. A conditional-use hearing was held prior to the Jan. 19 meeting of the township’s Board of Supervisors to discuss the application.
As testified by Enrique Pallares on behalf of the family business, their plan is for family members to live in the two residential dwellings on the 26-acre property while converting the country store to an office and the barn to a tasting room. The tasting room would sell wine by the bottle and the glass. It would have a maximum occupancy of 49 people, which would represent 41 patrons with 8 staff members. Only Spanish-style tapas and small plates would be served – not a full restaurant menu. If approved, the operation could be open to the public as early as June of this year.
The company currently is producing wine under the label Casa Carmen as a boutique winery with their primary business location in Chestertown, Maryland. Founded in 2017, the focus is on Spanish-style or Old World-style dry wines. They produce red, rose, and white wine, as well as a Spanish-style vermouth.
The township zoning ordinance limits wine sales from a tasting room to wines produced only from grapes raised on the site. The ordinance also references the need to follow regulations of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. 
“Most wineries function by growing some grapes but also buying some grapes from other vineyards,” Pallares said. “My view is that this particular potion of the ordinance is outdated and not up to what the industry standards are.”
The plan for the property is to plant two acres of vines the first year with one to three additional acres the next year. It takes three years for vines to produce grapes. There is also a plan to plant a three-quarter-acre garden of botanicals to be used in vermouth and to continue the use of the existing black walnut trees for the company’s signature black vermouth.
Casa Carmen wine is produced at a shared winery facility in Baltimore. Currently, the company has partnerships with two Chester County vineyards, Stag and Thistle, and Equivine. 
Testimony for the applicant was completed, but the board did not render a decision at this point. The hearing will be continued to next month prior to the Feb. 2 supervisors meeting, starting at 5 p.m.
After hearing his proposal, the Penn Township board approved the request of Bradley Gerwig to install his Eagle Scout project at the township’s Sports Park. He will be constructing a railing at the back of the outdoor classroom with wheelchair-accessible tables as well as a lectern at the front of the  outdoor classroom. Gerwig is a member of troop 62 out of Kembelsville and attends Avon Grove High School.
Bids for improvements to the veterans garden at the passive recreation park were rejected last month when prices were substantially higher than anticipated. The speculation is that the high cost was related to the provision in the proposal that the existing bricks would be reused. A new design is being developed using new brick and a simpler layout.
The board tabled action on construction of a clamshell-style amphitheater at the passive recreation park. The cost of the basic clamshell is $190,928, but there would be additional costs for things like electricity. 
Supervisor Laura Sperratore made a motion to table action on the plan until next year year due to prices at this time. The motion was approved on a three-to-one vote, with William O’Connell opposed. He would have preferred to go forward with the project now, since money has already been spent on design and surveying.
Sperratore also questioned bidding for road projects at this time, in hopes that costs will come down. Because of timing and competition pressures, the township decided to go forward now. The list of road projects for this year has been trimmed to just West Ewing Road between Lewis Road and the township line. Rough guesses estimate the cost to be around $235,000.