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Effingham Winery Summary · PDF file 2017-08-21 · Effingham Winery Summary . The case concerns the application of “Effingham Manor”, which is located in the Alexander Lakes neighborhood

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  • Effingham Winery Summary

    The case concerns the application of “Effingham Manor”, which is located in the Alexander Lakes neighborhood off of Aiden Road in Prince William County, in Nokesville. The subdivision is about 480 acres with 49 lots and a common area. Most of the lots are 10 acre lots, but a few are over a ten and a few under 5 and 3 acres. The homes and lots are valued in the range of $900,000 to $1.1 million. The centerpiece of the case is an 18th century residential dwelling, known as Effingham Manor. The manor has 12.8 acres (lot 27), and is adjoined with an addition 3.7-acre lot (lot 23a). The area is zoned A-1. Prince William County does not use the R-C category that Fairfax County uses. The subdivision was developed by “French” Smerbeck in 2007, with a financing company, G and G, taking over in the 2010-2011; Mr. Smerbeck’s organization, Kustom Kastles, was not financially viable. Mr. Smerbeck affirmed in an affidavit, and other witnesses testified, that it was the understanding of Alexander Lakes residents that Effingham Manor would be used as a community center for Alexander Lakes. The HOA, known as Effingham Farms HOA, is still controlled by G and G, even though the HOA was supposed to have been turned over to the home owners by the “builder” once all the lots were sold or after seven years, whichever came first. The “President” of the HOA , Mike Dyer, is an employee of G and G, as is one of only two “unelected” board members. Neither of the HOA board members reside in the neighborhood. HOA dues are collected for maintenance of common areas, including roads. There is are multiple pieces of land that is HOA common area in the subdivision. The private roads that run through the area run on easements through privately owned lots. Home owners are responsible for the private road’s maintenance. In 2007, the Prince William County Comprehensive Plan mentioned that Effingham Manor was “culturally significant.” In 2006, Prince William County approved a Special Use Permit (SUP) for Effingham Manor to host weddings and other events. This SUP expired in 2011 and Prince William Account issued a termination of SUP status to the HOA. None of the purchasers of lots or homes within Alexander Lakes were told about any possibility of Effingham Manor becoming a “farm winery.” They only became aware of the possibility in January 2016 when Lot 27 and 23 were sold to Chris Pearmund for this purpose. There was some conflicting testimony as to whether Effingham Manor lot was actually in the Alexander Lakes subdivision. There is also a conflict as to whether an act by the General Assembly acted as a blanket extension of SUPs. This act was passed prior to the issuance of the termination letter by Prince William County. The objectors are apparently arguing in Circuit Court, that G and G should have appealed the termination letter to the Board of Zoning Appeals if they did not agree to it in 2011. This failure to follow the normal appeal of zoning opinions is also an element to the Bates on Yates case. For many years, Effingham Manor went unsold, although for limited periods, it was rented out. In December 2015, G and G/Effingham Farms HOA sold the manor house to Chris Pearmund, who owns Pearmund Cellars Winery in Fauquier County, as well as Vint Hill Craft Winery. Mr. Pearmund bottled wine for Paradise Springs Winery (PSW) at Pearmund Cellars using a PSW label for several years. His name has also been associated with La Grange Winery in Haymarket

  • Effingham Winery Summary

    and the Winery at Bull Run in Centreville, although he no longer has a relationship with PSW, La Grange, or Bull Run. None of the home owners knew of the sale by G and G to Mr. Pearmund. Shortly after arriving in the neighborhood, Mr. Pearmund began holding “meet and greets” which included a few Alexander Lakes home owners, as well as “investor meetings” with those interested in investing in his winery enterprises. At these meetings, free wine was offered. He began construction of a “barn” / winery event center, in addition to restoring the grounds around the manor house. Under the guise of his farm winery license at Pearmund Cellars, Mr. Pearmund applied for and was granted a “remote license” from VABC. Each farm winery may have up to five of these remote licenses, where they may have remote sales of their wine. It is unclear if these remote licenses also permit the “by right uses” of a farm winery, such as events. He was cited by VABC for transferring several cases of wine for one of his “meetings”, as he listed it as “free” and did not pay customary taxes that would normally be collected by VABC. The homeowner who lived across the street from the manor house agreed to invest in the winery. She believes that wineries attract “wealthy and high-class people” who can generate interest in the neighborhood. A number of the remaining lots in Alexander Lakes have yet to be built on. However, it took 15 years before all but one of the lots in Glencairn subdivision in Clifton had been built on. This homeowner was the only one who testified in favor of Mr. Pearmund. When she first purchased a home in the subdivision, she was not aware that it might be a winery. She “had the understanding” that Effingham Manor would become an HOA “community center.” At the “meet and greets”, when several of the home owners heard Mr. Pearmund’s intention to turn the manor house into an event center and winery, they became concerned. He spoke of expanding the property by purchasing remaining lots to create a 200 acre winery. At that juncture, Mr. Pearmund also turned increasingly hostile toward the homeowners. The covenants strictly state that the neighborhood is residential only. The HOA does not permit agriculture. Home owners may set up businesses in their homes, but they may not bring in employees or have clients/customers come into the neighborhood. Mr. Pearmund initially tried to push through a Prince William County SUP for the property as an event center. However, the process started to become onerous. Prince William County Supervisor, Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville District), testified against the winery at the hearing. Supervisor Lawson indicated that Mr. Pearmund has been difficult to work with and been rude to her staff. She represents the district that includes Alexander Lakes and is the Vice Chair of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. She was limited in what she could say due to “advice of Prince William County counsel” pertaining to the upcoming circuit court case. As a result of County resistance, Mr. Pearmund withdrew the SUP application and went forward last fall with a farm winery application. Mr. Pearmund was able to obtain a Temporary Activity Permit (TAP), but only for the “event barn” and not the manor house. The TAP/SUP aspects of

  • Effingham Winery Summary

    the case are being litigated by the Circuit Court and were not considered pertinent to the VABC case. Special Agent Kelly has also not seen the production equipment and so she cannot make a full endorsement for the hearing officer. She has also not seen the SUP or TAP. The “barn” constructed to host events is located near the manor house. The building can apparently hold around 200 people standing. There are no visual buffers between neighboring lots and the “event barn.” According to the builder, the event barn is constructed to high quality standard. For example, it contains a type of spray foam that is more expensive than traditional insulation, but which has noise mitigation properties. Like all “farm” structures in Virginia, it is not required to adhere to the State Uniform Building Code (SUBC) and therefore has not been thru plan review, permits or inspections for the sake of safety yet is expected to host thousands of people annually will have no idea that the building has not been held to the same building code standards as all other buildings. During his first year of ownership and the existence of his one year “remote license” under the farm winery legislation, he hosted numerous events hosting small groups of people. However, Mr. Pearmund indicates that he never exercised the authority under the license to sell wine at Effingham Manor. There were concerns that in 2016, Mr. Pearmund promoted an event that that could have hosted over 250 people if it had not been moved at the last minute to Pearmund Cellars, apparently to avoid conflict with PWC when his TAP only permitted a much smaller number (30 people for 30 minutes). Mr. Pearmund allowed his remote license to lapse after its one year term in February 2017. During many of these events, Mr. Pearmund and other “investors” purchased the wine at Pearmund Cellars and brought it over to Effingham Manor. There was a VABC violation citation associated with some of the transfers of wine from Pearmund Cellars. VABC wants to ensure that they get every penny of tax revenue possible from every bottle of wine, and they do not want it transferred around and issued for free, resulting in a non-taxable event. Many of the homeowners complained about the traffic and noise from the visitors. Several of them indicated that they had to modify the behaviors of their families and their children in walking and riding bikes in the neighborhood. This subdivision has no sidewalks, no street lights, and no road striping. The only road that accesses the majority of homes and proposed winery is in disrepair and falls to the residents to maintain as the proposed winery is inside a private subdivision with no state maintained roads. Several home owners reported that Mr. Pearmund approached their persons and

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