SUNBURY — A hearing is set for Friday between Spyglass Ridge Winery owners, Tom and Tammy Webb and the Rockefeller Township board of supervisors to determine whether or not the winery is allowed to hold concerts and events, including this weekend's Hot Air Balloon Festival.
The hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in front of President Judge Charles Saylor, seven hours before the gates are supposed to open for the kickoff of the festival, which includes a Billy Joel Experience tribute band on Friday night.
The Webbs through their attorney Joel Wiest, of Sunbury, filed for the injunction to allow this week's show to proceed after Webbs received a letter from the township informing them Spyglass is no longer allowed to host concerts and events.
Township officials claim Spyglass owners are breaking the township’s agriculture ordinance.
"I am thankful to have the hearing," Tom Webb said after receiving the news Wednesday morning. "This is nothing but an attack on us. We challenged an ordinance five years and now it has come to this. The only thing we can do is have our day in court. It is unfortunate that the township believes they can waste the township's taxpayer money to attack our business."
Wiest, who declined comment Wednesday, wrote in his brief to the court that an injunction was needed so both parties had time to litigate their cases and that granting the injunction would not hurt the township. Denying the injunction would hurt the Webbs who had pre-paid for the festival this weekend.
“During this entire period of time and despite the obvious knowledge of Webb’s use of the property there has never been a legal issue raised regarding the zoning of the property until Sept. 30,” Wiest wrote. “The Webbs are entitled to a preliminary injunction which bars Rockefeller Township from taking enforcement actions before the legal issues are heard by this honorable court.”
Wiest said the Webbs have been operating for 20 years, including holding concerts for the past 10 years at the property. The Webbs have never been notified of the ordinance being broken, Wiest said.
Rockefeller Township supervisors have declined comment on the case, including Township Zoning Officer Ed Wenger.
Spyglass Ridge Winery posted a message to social media Wednesday morning reminding fans that the event is still scheduled and that the winery would keep people informed of the status of the ordinance issue in the next few days.
Rockefeller Township attorney Jim Best, of Sunbury, told the Webbs the township was aware the winery was hosting concerts and they never permitted the Webbs to host the events.
“The cultivation of grapes and the practice of converting those grapes to wine is an agricultural activity and the township has never had any dispute that the Webbs can operate a winery as a matter of right,” Best wrote.
“However, the use of the winery to host festivals and concerts far exceeds even a broad understanding of agricultural activities. The township did not object to Webb’s retail and private venue activities but never permitted them either,” Best wrote.
“It is now clear the focus of Spyglass Ridge Winery has moved from viticulture and reasonable commercial activities incident to the manufacture of wine to being Central Pennsylvania’s premier outdoor concert venue,” Best wrote.
Best said the township is now telling Webb that this weekend’s events must be postponed. If the winery holds the event, a zoning officer will take the necessary action to prevent any events.