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By LORRIE KINKADE
The Trimble Banner
Are you in favor of the sale of wine at the Little Kentucky River Winery, LLC?
That is the question voters in the East Bedford precinct will face when they head to the polls Dec. 16.
David and Teresa Schnell Weyler, owners of Little Kentucky River Winery, LLC, petitioned the county’s fiscal court last month to give voters the opportunity to allow sales at a winery to be located in the 3200 block of U.S. 421 South.
The Louisville couple has owned the winery property for four years, however only in the last year decided to create Little Kentucky River Winery. Since then, Teresa Weyler said they have begun work to turn the land into a small vineyard, winery and special event venue to be operated on a part-time basis. If the referendum passes, wine will be sold by the bottle at the location and sampling will be allowed on site, she said.
“We are looking at a very quaint little winery,” she said. “A bed and breakfast is also possible in the future. We haven’t really decided. This is a place that could be used as a venue for weddings or other special events. We would only be open Saturdays and for special occasions.”
Weyler said the couple hopes to create a “very unique country setting” that could attract visitors to Trimble County and ultimately be “good for Bedford and all of Trimble County.”
“We love it up there. We plan to retire in Trimble County,” she said.
Virgie Downey, who lives near the proposed winery property, said she knows “a lot of people might not like” having wine sales in the county.
“But I live right here close to it and I don’t think it would cause any problems. The work [the Weylers] have already done over there is a real improvement. And we need something new in Trimble County.”
Another nearby property owner who asked not to be identified said she would welcome the addition of a winery to the area.
“Why not? I don’t think it would harm anything. And if the owners are responsible enough to do the work they already have to the property, I think they would be responsible enough to open a nice business.”
Although the neighbor admitted to being concerned about additional traffic on the heavily traveled stretch of road, she said, “I chose to live there knowing what the traffic could be like.”
Bedford Commissioner Harold Greene declined to comment on the winery proposal as a city official, however on a personal level said he is not in favor of “anything that brings alcohol into the county.”
Greene said he doesn’t believe the potential revenue generated by the business would negate the ‘problems we might have.” He points to the additional burden placed on law enforcement in neighboring Carrollton as something to be expected if alcohol sales are allowed in any town.
“If people want to have a drink at home, that’s all right. But I don’t think we need to sell it here,” he said.
County sheriff Tim Coons said several local residents have visited his office to voice their concerns since word of the potential winery began to spread. Though he declined to voice his personal opinion on the issue, he did speculate on the effects any alcohol-related business can have on his department.
“As sheriff, I have serious concerns about all alcohol related issues in Trimble County, not just this business. Anything alcohol related is going to cause problems for law enforcement,” he said.
According to Judge-executive Randy Stevens, the county was obligated by law to swiftly proceed with the upcoming special election after receiving the Weyler’s petition.
“The law is pretty clear when you get a petition like this. Perry [Arnold, Trimble County Attorney] researched the law and [County Clerk] Jerry Powell verified the petition,” he said. “Luckily we were able to wait until after the November election and fit it in between holidays. What hurts is that the county is responsible for the cost of the election, which should be about $2,000.”
The petition contained signatures of 157 Trimble County residents, Powell said, however 24 of those were disqualified due to living outside the East Bedford precinct. The petition was required by law to include at least 50 registered voters in the qualifying precinct, or one-quarter the number of voters from East Bedford who went to the polls in the 2007 General Election. The law also specifies that only voters in the proposed sale precinct may cast ballots in favor or against the small winery.
“Some people have been upset that this vote isn’t open to everyone in the county, but the law is very specific,” Stevens said. “A small winery is not like a package liquor store or bar. The law is very different for them.”
If the majority of voters reject the winery referendum, Arnold said the Weylers must wait three years before posing the question to voters in the East Bedford precinct again. They could, however, attempt to open the winery in a different area of Trimble County.