A half mile down a deeply rutted private dirt road in Catalina, plans for an aging house and rows of grape vines stretching across a few acres have dozens of residents furious.
The proposed winery on a 9-acre parcel in the shadow of the Santa Catalina Mountains would be a first for Pinal County, but nearby residents are wary that weddings and other events will disrupt their otherwise quiet rural neighborhood.
Their concerns include changes in property values, noise from nighttime outdoor events, a new road and the possibility of drunk drivers leaving the winery.
One of the main roads to the planned project bears the name of the family behind this project and numerous developments in the community, the Golder family.
Vicki Cox Golder, who along with her children have been working behind the scenes to establish Golder Ranch Wines for the last two years, says she remains flexible to finding common ground with her neighbors and that the latest plans for the property mostly address most their concerns.
At the heart of the issue is the proposed rezoning of the property, turning the existing rural agricultural designation to commercial zoning that would technically allow the Golder family to open a bar, a restaurant or even a nightclub in the residential neighborhood.
Golder insists it was the county that is pushing for the zoning, not her family, and that she has received legal advice that the existing zoning would allow for a winery that would as serve as a venue for weddings and other celebrations.
She faults Pinal County officials, saying they don’t understand that they are holding them to a standard no other winery in the state has to meet.
“Every other winery in Arizona is under (rural agricultural zoning) and has not had the restrictions,” Golder said.
But absent a potentially costly and prolonged legal fight with the county, Golder said they are moving forward with the commercial rezoning but are voluntarily restricting the permitted uses.
“All those things they say we want to do we weren’t going to do anyway,” she said.
And those restrictions would be tied to the property indefinitely, even if it was sold in the future — something Golder says will never happen.
“It will be in the family forever,” she said.
The county staff has recommended that the Pinal County Planning and Zoning Commission sign off on the Golder Ranch Wines proposal, but a planned hearing scheduled for later this month has been postponed until February or even March.
A tense public meeting held last week on the property suggests that dozens of neighbors have serious concerns about the winery.
More than three dozen people crowded into a living room to talk with Golder and her development team, but the 90-minute meeting often devolved into shouting matches.
Neighbors were shouting with the developers as well as each other over various concerns.
Many were suspicious about the commercial designation, believing it would open the door to other commercial uses down the road — particularly if the property were sold to new owners.
Jeff Neumann is against the proposal, saying that many of his neighbors are opposed to the project.
“Our neighborhood is really on board to not have this commercial venue in our backyard,” Neumann said.
Golder offered to make further concessions at the meeting Thursday night, suggesting they could limit the number of outdoor events or even hold the events indoors.
But those suggestions were largely dismissed with residents saying they wanted no nighttime outdoor events.
Some went a step further and said that the entire proposal wasn’t welcome in their neighborhood.
Golder, whose family has built developments in the area for decades, said that neighbors welcomed them with open arms a few years ago.
Many, she said, came out when they held a “blessing of the grapes” ceremony a few years ago when the grapes were planted.
More public meetings with the community are planned, Golder said.