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Sand Castle Winery seeks transformation to “destination”


Seeking to continue to “build a revenue stream past wine sales,” the Sand Castle Winery in Tinicum Township has some new ideas on how to accomplish that while minimizing any disturbance to its neighbors.

At the township’s May 7 public board of supervisors meeting, owner Joseph Maxian led a group of associates in introducing the new concept of expanding his business model to a “destination winery.” The business, on River Road in Erwinna, started in 1996, and began to add weddings and other events as it proceeded through its “15 years of planting to yield,” which was followed by another six years for wine aging. With its wine now made exclusively from grapes grown on the 40-acre property, it has earned the label of “estate grown.”

Original events programming, around 2011, led to complaints and violation notices, which were eventually settled, but without any zoning ordinance change, and no recollection of any complaints since then. Maxian’s associates at the May 7 meeting noted that ordinance change would again be sought to support the concept of now moving toward a destination winery, which would include lodging opportunity for visitors. Solicitor Stephen Harris recalled that the previous zoning amendment idea foundered on questions of where else it might apply in the township.

Supervisors indicated they supported the notion of the township being willing to consider detailed plans, a sentiment the group noted was the purpose of its personal appearance at the meeting. Those plans were summarized as featuring enclosed space for events, as a key to avoiding neighborhood disturbance.

Also at the May 7 meeting, supervisors resolved to support an effort started by another township toward amending the state’s right-to-know law to “provide relief from vexatious requesters.”

The law, designed to promote government transparency, was characterized as now too often being used “as a retaliatory weapon, rather than for the public good,” and thereby too often overwhelming lean-staffed municipalities that are already struggling to keep up with demanding responsibilities.

The amendment movement is designed to provide a means of soliciting relief from the Office of Open Records or the courts, “to address those who could be recognized as a vexatious requester.”

In addition, supervisors resolved to “require any organization that wishes to use its public roadways for a bicycle event of more than one hundred riders” to file a special application and pay a nonrefundable fee.

Supervisors emphasized they were not seeking to discourage the events, but to protect the township against problems such as groups leaving their signage and special road markings in place after the events were concluded, where they might confuse or endanger motorists.