Wineries are often considered the local rural area’s crown jewels, but the living isn’t always easy for those with homes near one. The hum of a giant fan at a Crozet vineyard has one neighbor at his wit’s end.
“It is truly an outrage that my wife and I are subjected to this while outside the house,” Robert Butler wrote in a recent email to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. He attached an audio recording of the low frequency vibration that was taken from his backyard on April 21, about half a mile away from White Hall Vineyards, where the offending fan exists.
White Hall Vineyards owner Tony Champ says he’s never received a complaint about the two-blade fan that’s perched on a 40-foot tower.
He uses his automatic blower periodically during bud break, which usually happens between April 15 and May 1, to blow warm air on 20 acres of the vineyard, because if Champ loses new buds to the frost, he loses his crop for the year.
“Unfortunately, it goes off at about two or three in the morning and runs for a couple of hours,” says Champ. “I do have to admit the fan is loud.”
In Butler’s message to the supervisors, he added, “As you can hear, having that din from ‘my local vineyard’ greatly lessens the enjoyment of the sounds of nature. On our walk this morning, this sound blanketed the entirety of the Sugar Hollow region.”
The goings-on at Albemarle wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries have been a hot topic in years past, but especially in 2016, when county administration announced an interest in further regulating events such as weddings at those venues, after rural neighbors complained about increased traffic and, perhaps most passionately, the noise.
That was also the year that Butler originally contacted the supervisors with his concerns about the racket at White Hall Vineyards.
“I’ve brought this to their attention before but, alas, nobody wants to think of a vineyard as a public nuisance,” he says. “Out here, we’re not all thrilled about these chosen businesses.”
Champ says he calls his closest neighbors when the fan is likely to automatically kick on overnight.
“We do try to be good neighbors,” he says, adding that he believes the fan has run about three times this spring.
He also does not allow amplified music at his venue. “As wineries go, I think we’re a fairly quiet one,” he says.
According to county code, outdoor amplified music exceeding 60 decibels—approximately the same level as conversation in a restaurant or an air conditioning unit—during the day and 55 decibels at night is prohibited at farm wineries. A noise ordinance exemption exists for sounds produced by an agricultural activity.
“We don’t have any open complaints on White Hall Vineyards and we would not want to speculate on whether or not there is a violation without an onsite investigation, which we wouldn’t do without a formal complaint,” says county spokesperson Jody Saunders.
But that doesn’t cut it for the man who has written twice to county supervisors about the noise.
“The county needs to regulate this auditory abomination,” says Butler. “If [property owners] had wanted this, we could have chosen to live next to an airport.”