Milton, farm winery owner in negotiations to avoid lawsuit

D’Rose is owned by married couple Jim and Daryn Rosenberger.
Courtesy Jim Rosenberger

Credit: Courtesy Jim Rosenberger

Credit: Courtesy Jim Rosenberger

D’Rose is owned by married couple Jim and Daryn Rosenberger. Courtesy Jim Rosenberger

The city of Milton and the owner of a farm winery are in negotiations to avoid a lawsuit over a controversial alcohol license that, if approved, would allow the business to sell its product.

Jim Rosenberger is co-owner of D’Rose Vintners with his wife Daryn. Rosenberger says he is willing to withdraw a request for the farm’s alcohol license if the city pays an adequate amount to cover what he’s invested in the property since rezoning was approved in May 2021.

Rosenberger says he and his wife have invested nearly $500,000 in the project. The winery is on 11 of the property’s 18 acres on Blackmaral Lane.

A public hearing to consider approval of the alcohol license was deferred to April 8 at Rosenberger’s request. It is the fourth deferral since November and the first initiated by Rosenberger, he said.

“We think we can come (to an agreement) with the city. We are hopeful,” Rosenberger said. “We need to figure out how we can recoup some of the pain and suffering, some of the financial impact that we’ve been subjected to.”

Milton is also facing a possible lawsuit from a group of neighbors who are considering litigation if an alcohol license is approved.

Resident Sarah Moen said neighbors in the community have collectively hired an attorney and are opposed to deferral of the issue.

“Pull the (alcohol license) application. Deal with mistakes made during the process but don’t make the taxpayers pay for those mistakes,” said Moen, president of Providence Plantation HOA.

Residents of Boxwood Estates and Providence Plantation subdivisions say they worry that visitors for wine tastings, and delivery trucks going to the farm, could pose potential danger ranging from increased traffic to drunk drivers in the quiet community.

Residents also believe the winery is not eligible for an alcohol license. Milton amended its law for farm wineries after the Rosenbergers were granted the rezoning of their property to agricultural district.

The amended ordinance has restrictions that the winery does not meet. Rosenberger says the restrictions, such as the winery must be 20 acres in size, do not apply because his rezoning had already been granted.

The Rosenbergers said they’ve revised plans for the farm winery a few times due to residents’ backlash. That includes scrapping plans to open a tasting room to visitors who could sample and purchase D’Rose wine.

Rosenberger said D’Rose would still need a local alcohol license to distribute the wine wholesale from the property.

D’Rose has a federal alcohol license but Rosenberger cannot obtain a state license unless a permanent local license is approved, he said.

“We have already purchased wine in Georgia and California that is waiting to get bottled, and we can’t bottle it without our label, and we can’t get our label without the liquor license,” Rosenberger said. “We have invested a lot of money in product that is just sitting there.”

The Rosenbergers, as well as neighbors opposed to the issuance of an alcohol license, say Milton mishandled the rezoning process for the farm winery in 2021 and related events that have taken place since then.

“While I acknowledge that the notices that went out were not very clear, the subsequent public hearings that went on were very clear about (the property) being a farm winery,” Milton City Manager Steve Krokoff said.

Residents say they only learned about plans to sell or distribute the wine from the farm last fall.

Rosenberger adds that he has followed the direction of city officials in adhering to regulations since 2020 when he first informed officials that he wanted to rezone his property to build a new home and create a farm winery.

“For us what started off as a beautiful project has turned into this ugly dilemma that has turned us into villains. We’ve always tried to do the right thing. It’s just not fun that we’ve suddenly become everyone’s enemy in the neighborhood,” Rosenberger said.