JEROME - The Town Council has been working on defining "Viniculture" as it is used in pending Ordinance 380, which will allow growing grapes for wine as a commercial and conditional use in the part of town zoned Agriculture/Residential. The hold-up on passing that ordinance has been defining how many vines per half acre can be grown without being classified as commercial viniculture.
An existing ordinance and the pending ordinance both state, "the term viniculture shall not apply to plantings of 20 vines or less" (per half acre). During a special meeting Tuesday night, the council discussed raising the maximum number vines for domestic use. Several recommendations of anywhere from 50 to 200 vines per half acre had been proposed.
In the end, the council voted unanimously (with councilwoman Christine Barag absent) to raise the maximum number of vines per half acre for domestic classification to 100.
Mayor Jay Kinsella started the discussion by explaining that the council has hammered out the definition of viniculture except for the number of vines allowed for domestic use.
Councilman Lew Currier asked how many bottles of wine would 20 vines produce.
Nikki Check, a vineyard manager for Merkin Vineyards & Orchards Green Management, said there were a number of variables, but under optimal conditions three bottles of wine can be produced from each vine.
Currier said he'd like to know how much water is used in grape production.
Resident Margie Hardie said the $5,000 hook-up fee would provide enough revenue for the town to regulate water use.
"I applaud the ordinance that controls the growth of the wine industry in Jerome," Hardie said.
She also said that "viniculture" refers to wine and not to growing grapes for food.
Another resident, Ivy Stearman, said, "I don't know where it says wine is not food."
She argued that 20 vines for domestic use is way too low. She said she has 18 vines of her own.
Stearman said that people in Jerome will get licenses to grow medical marijuana, and, consequently, the council will be visiting this issue again.
Councilwoman Lisa Rappaport said, "We should increase the number of vines allowed to maybe 100." She said that the ad-hoc committee that worked on the ordinance tried hard to make sure that no one infringed on anyone's right to grow food.
Councilwoman Anne Bassett suggested making the maximum 50 vines per half acre to protect water use.
"It's easier to raise it later than to lower it," she said.
Check told the council that limiting the number of vines allowed for domestic use would likely shut out the small-time producer and open it to big operators.
Currier pointed out that commercial viniculture requires the dedicated water hook-up but domestic growers would not.
The ordinance must be approved by the council before the maximum number of vines will be valid.