At their meeting last Wednesday, the Monroe County Board of Appeals unanimously voted to recommend the county commissioners approve rezoning the proposed site of Stumpy’s Spirits Distillery’s big expansion north of Waterloo.
Adam and Laura Stumpf, owners of Stumpy’s, submitted a Petition of Zoning Ordinance to rezone 125.19 acres of land between FF Road and Hanover Road along Route 3 from A-2 agricultural land to B-2 highway business.
Provided this zoning change goes through, the couple plans to purchase this land and use it to house a 25,000-square-foot multi-purpose venue and rickhouses for aging products. As the couple had stated in the meeting, they plan to construct more rickhouses as production abilities increase.
Stumpy’s currently operates at 1727 Centerville Road.
The new development will primarily serve to enhance the guests’ experience.
“Basically all production-related activities will happen at our existing facility, and then all visitor experiences would be at the new facility,” Adam previously told the Republic-Times.
The Monroe County Board will soon vote whether or not the rezoning of the Stumpfs’ proposed expansion site will take place.
As of press time, this topic has not officially been added to a county board agenda.
“Within 10 days after the public hearing, the Board of Appeals shall submit an advisory report to the County Board. Within 30 days after receiving an advisory report from the Board of Appeals, the County Board of Commissioners shall act on the report in accordance with their regular procedure,” Monroe County Zoning Administrator Chris Voelker explained in an email.
Just because the zoning board moved to recommend the rezoning of Stumpy’s proposed expansion site does not mean the whole county is in agreement. At last Wednesday’s meeting, the board heard from eight concerned county residents.
As Voelker previously told the Republic-Times, traffic congestion off Route 3 is an existing concern, and some believe it will be an even bigger concern if Stumpy’s were to expand to the parcel in question.
Portia Oberkfell echoed this concern when addressing the zoning board.
“Hanover and Route 3 is one of, if not the highest, most traveled intersections in Monroe County,” Oberkfell told the board. “I live near there, we have two parcels of property near there. I can vouch for how bad that traffic is.”
Chris Howell, who submitted a letter with multiple concerns to the Planning Commission for consideration, also spoke about the traffic at Route 3 and Hanover.
He pointed out that the conditions the traffic study the Republic-Times previously mentioned in its reporting were taken at “peak times,” which includes rush hour, but the peak time for the venues may coincide with weekend activity in the area not taken into account.
Adam previously told the Republic-Times traffic concerns are one of the main reasons why the business is advocating for another entrance that leads directly onto Route 3. There are many factors that will determine if this entrance will be brought to fruition.
As of now, the only entrance that will definitely be in existence would be off Midway Boulevard in the Hanover Industrial Complex.
Tammy Mitchell Hines said she was speaking on behalf of a non-specified group and one of their main concerns was that rezoning the development did not adhere to Monroe County’s comprehensive plan.
In an outline Hines and the group prepared to be read to the board but was not able to read in full because of time constraints, the group wrote, “The majority of the proposed land is not earmarked in the comprehensive plan for B-2, but as residential.”
When asked about how the Stumpy’s expansion at the proposed site aligns with the comprehensive plan, Adam told the Republic-Times he believes it actually fits right in with the county’s planned trajectory.
He also pointed out the comprehensive plan does not coincide with exact property lines.
“We actually mentioned the comprehensive plan in our letter of intent being that this development fits very nicely with that comprehensive plan that the county has outlined on the website, as well as the existing properties,” Adam said, further explaining “One (existing property) right next door (is) zoned as B-2 and one right across the street (is) zoned as B-2.”
Oberkfell spoke on zoning code enforcement concerns, as she said Stumpy’s current location, which is zoned B-2, is “in violation of our current zoning.”
Per state statute, Oberkfell said, distilling alcohol is considered manufacturing.
As a condition of use of a B-2 zone, “There shall be no manufacturing, processing or treatment of products other than those which are incidental and essential to the retail business conducted on the same premises,” and there should not be more than 10 people manufacturing the products.
During the meeting, Adam said his existing business aligns with the “less than 10 people” manufacturing requirement and the manufacturing directly supports the retail business that is conducted on-site.
The expansion will also meet this criteria, Adam said, as whiskey barrel storage is “absolutely essential” to the retail business that will be conducted on the site. The other facets of the development will comply with their applicable zoning conditions, Adam said.
Adam said he received a call from the county on Friday afternoon notifying him that Oberkfell had filed an official complaint against his existing business location. He also said he was told the state’s attorney would be looking into it.
While Adam said he did not feel comfortable sharing the exact nature of the complaint with the Republic-Times as he had not seen any written documentation of the allegations, he did tell the R-T it was “absurd.”
Oberkfell told the Republic-Times she did not file a report with the county.
Monroe County State’s Attorney Lucas Liefer did say a complaint has been filed and gave a copy of the report to the Republic-Times via a Freedom of Information Act response.
The complaint was filed by Brad Oberkfell (Portia’s husband) and cited a perceived business ordinance violation and zoning inconsistency. To read the complaint, click here.
Adam said being notified of a complaint prompted him to make a Facebook post which alleged that “a small group of influential community members are trying to destroy both our expansion project and our existing business for personal and/or business reasons.”
“When I am responsible for the livelihoods of other peoples’ families, that puts a big onus on me and whenever that’s called into question, I have an obligation to fight for my employees and my families and my team, so that’s the reason I ended up posting it,” Adam told the Republic-Times.
This post, which has since been deleted, discussed how the Planning Commission had agreed to recommend the zoning change to the county commissioners with an 11-2 vote. One of the “nay” votes was from Jane Kolmer, who works with Hines at her real estate company as the general manager/listing partner.
One of the three county commissioners, George Green, is a buyer specialist at Hines’s company.
“My main concern is that the fate of this project kind of falls into the county commissioners’ hands and … one of the three votes that’s sitting at that table is gainfully employed by someone who just spoke against the project. So that, obviously, is a concern for us in trying to get the project through,” Adam told the R-T.
Kolmer said her vote and her opinions are her own and are not swayed by anybody else.
“It’s unfortunate how some things may inadvertently appear, but there’s actually zero basis to it. My concerns have always been personal and for the county, and have nothing to do with anybody else, including Mr. Stumpf,” Kolmer said.
She said one of her main concerns that influenced her vote was regarding traffic.
“The comprehensive plan includes a planned project for a frontage road between Hanover and FF Road, which was not included on Mr. Stumpf’s site plan. If that road was not included in Mr. Stumpf’s site plan, I worry that the county could lose control over a very important piece of planned infrastructure. The traffic at Hanover Road is already horrible, and if Mr. Stumpf’s business is as successful as I think it will be, it will only be compounded. Hopefully we can all work together to make this project beneficial for everyone.”
On Tuesday, Green reached out to Adam for a meeting. Adam said the two discussed the plans for this proposed development and concerns Adam brought up in the Facebook post.
Adam said Green was not sure exactly how he would vote, but said he was just trying to gather all the facts “so he could make the vote he felt was appropriate for the county.”
“I certainly appreciate Commissioner Green’s willingness to reach out. I think the purpose of the meeting was so we could both understand each other’s positions and the facts surrounding the situation. I know it wasn’t an easy thing to do. If (the commissioners) make a vote with a clear conscience and in the best interests of the citizens of Monroe County, I may not agree with the vote, but I will certainly respect it regardless of how they vote.”
When asked for comment on this concern and the post as a whole, Hines said the following in an emailed statement:
“I wish Stumpy’s all the success in the world and I am sure the (county) can come together to make it beneficial for all involved,” Hines said.
Green did not respond to multiple requests by the Republic-Times for comment.
Adam’s post also stated Greg Meyer, owner of Sugar Spring Ranch at 1385 Centerville Road, had accused Adam of burning his wedding events venue down.
“The Friday following the fire, the state fire marshal came to the distillery and questioned me in front of the entire sales team and accused me … of arson,” the Facebook post read.
When the Republic-Times asked Meyer about this, he said, “I’ve never accused anyone of arson in my entire life – anyone. It was kind of surprising to me because when I saw the post it was the first time I was made aware that the fire marshal investigated him.”
Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said that arson does not appear to be the cause of the Sugar Spring Ranch fire on May 30.
“We have no information that it was even arson, and we have no suspect information,” Rohlfing said.
Meyer said he has not been privy to details of the investigation, and the last time he spoke to the fire marshal he said the investigation was continuing.
Meyer spoke at last week’s meeting, and said he supported Stumpy’s proposed development, but felt Sugar Spring Ranch and Stumpy’s were held to different standards during the zoning process.
“We certainly appreciate and feel this board has done more for us and helped us more than anyone else, and we definitely appreciate that. However, you still limited our special use permit to two years and we were restricted from outdoor music on two separate occasions. So it’s only fair that the same limitations be placed on this project,” Meyer told the board.
“The nearest house to this proposed venue is much closer to the nearest house where our venue is, and ours is buffered and theirs is not. So it’s simply not acceptable for a county government to give preferential treatments, elevate or provide a competitive advantage to one business over another – especially when they’re so similar.”
He mentioned that Adam wrote a letter during Sugar Spring’s rezoning process that asked Sugar Spring to “be held to the same zoning standards” as Stumpy’s, and said he was speaking before the board to ask for the same thing.
In response, Adam told Meyer at the meeting he appreciated the support and explained why he felt B-2 was the best way to zone the new development, as it includes more than a wedding venue.