Some big changes could soon be headed to Le Claire.
That’s after a Bettendorf couple got the stamp of approval on Wednesday night to build a winery.
The Scott County Zoning Board approved the plans for a 13.3 acre plot of land off the former Olathea Golf Course.
It will be the first project of it’s kind for Scott County.
Bryce Flaherty and Julia Rubino, both Bettendorf natives, plan to build a vineyard, tasting room, and event center on the property.
“We’re just trying to offer a total package,” said Flaherty.
Flaherty said it all started with a Christmas gift Rubino got from her mom.
“A few years ago Julia got a home brew kit from her mom for Christmas and then ever since then she’s kind of fallen in love with it,” he said.
Flaherty added that the home brew kit quickly got him hooked on the idea too.
Now the couple is looking forward to turning their dreams into a reality.
“Really excited,” said Flaherty. “That one is hard to put into words we’re really excited.”
But along the way their plans have met pushback, with concerns from neighbors over traffic, safety, noise and more.
More specifically, the proposed event center has become the main concern going forward.
Neighbor Andrea Faulhaber, says her family agreed to build homes on other lots around the former golf course a few months ago. Faulhaber says they bought the properties after the Scott County Board of Supervisors and the City of Princeton decided to zone the golf course from agricultural to residential.
“My family trusted an relied on the board’s approval and moved forward to purchase our dream residential properties,” said Faulhaber in a statement.
But she says shortly after they closed on the properties, the board was asked to reversed their decision for the winery plans.
Faulhaber added the winery proposal was framed as agricultural activities but with the event center it’s commercial, and the event center is one of their main concerns moving forward. Faulhaber released the following statement in part to Local 4 News:
“This event center will operate directly in our back yard encroaching on our property and negatively impacting our property values and the enjoyment of our property. The event center will also impact our clean water and air, the rural setting and dark skies. This event center also invites a potential criminal element into a residential area — for example criminal trespass, burglary, vandalism and theft. This event center will also tend to change the character and established pattern of development of the area nd the community. This business is going to increase lighting and noise to our residential area. In addition, it will create traffic and safety concerns since the entrance will be off Great River Road which is a 55 MPH two lane highway. The plan is not about a vineyard and a winery, it is strictly about an event center that doesn’t belong in our neighborhood.”
But Flaherty says they are eager to work together with neighbors, and hope these bumps in the road can be smoothed out in time.
“You know we’ve tried to be as civil as we can,” said Flaherty. “We want to be great neighbors. It’s a great neighborhood. Le Claire is a very small, close-knit community and we want to be a part of that.”
Other neighbors did not want to go on-camera but told Local 4 News they are waiting to see what happens, and one said they are not concerned with the plans.
For this duo, it’s not just a business deal, it’s personal. Flaherty proposed to Rubino on the site of their new plans a few weeks ago.
“Julia and I thought it would be a great idea to be the first wedding on site,” he said. “And because of that I wanted to be the first engagement as well. So I asked her to marry me out at the site a few weeks ago and she said yes thankfully!”
And while nothing is happening overnight, they’re looking forward to turning their hard work into wine.
“Until there’s a building on site and plants in the ground there’s still more work to do and we’ll just keep moving forward.”
The couple says the plans are still in the beginning stages, but they’re hoping to break ground Spring 2019.