A proposed winery, tasting room and events center got the green light Wednesday to become the first project of its kind in Scott County.
The development, proposed by Bryce Flaherty and Julia Rubino, was granted a special use permit by the Scott County Zoning Board Adjustment. The unanimous approval by the five-person board came after a nearly two-hour meeting at which several neighbors voiced their continued opposition to the project, particularly the events center.
The couple, both Bettendorf natives, want to build a vineyard, tasting room and production facility, an event center for weddings and a future family home on 13.3 acres of the former Olathea Golf Course.
"This is our dream, our American dream," Rubino told the board. "We want to start a small ag-based business that brings people together and showcases wine."
She said the couple also hope to be the first to be married there.
In his formal presentation, Flaherty addressed concerns the neighbors have voiced such as noise, site appropriateness, venue size, traffic and maintaining the rural nature. The events center will resemble a white barn.
The board of adjustment amended the venue's capacity to 200 people before giving its approval to move the project forward.
But neighbors continue to be against the project. Andrea Faulhaber spoke for her extended family, which is building new family homes on other lots at Olathea. She said the family had made its own significant investments and criticized how the winery would change the area's culture.
Faulhaber also said the operation also would bring a criminal element to the neighborhood including crimes of vandalism, theft and criminal trespass. They also asked for additional restrictions be enforced such as security measures, road safety improvements, signage limitations and time limits for events.
Jami Morash, whose mother Susan Leander owned and operated the golf course, said they were very excited by the plans for a winery but were caught off guard by the events center. "We don't want to tell the Rubinos we aren't excited to work with them, we are. But things keep growing."
But Flaherty said a wedding venue/events center has been part of the plans since the beginning based on advice they received researching vineyards. "They tell us it necessary to mitigate the costs. We think having a wedding venue will help spread our brand."
After the meeting, Rubino said they plan to keep working with neighbors on their concerns. "We don't want to be terrible neighbors. We hope once our vision comes alive, they'll understand our plan."
The next step will be the site approval process, which will allow for construction of the winery and tasting room. Under the special use permit conditions, they must have an active vineyard for two years before they can begin construction of an events center.