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Plan to host weekly vineyard events progresses

TOWN OF EL PASO --- An El Paso native hopes to host the public at weekly gatherings in the vineyard he's developing on part of his 300-acre property in the town.

Larry Brenner, an account executive with a Twin Cities radio firm, said Thursday rezoning related to his Vino in the Valley proposal has cleared the local planning commission and was to receive action at the town board meeting early this week. If approved there, he expects it to eventually go to the county level.

Brenner said he wants to take advantage of his land in retirement, and has decided to grow a vineyard and ultimately market wine from the grapes. Because even a successful such operation won't be productive for several years, he plans to help with financing in the meantime by opening the site to open-air music and dinner events.

Brenner's optimistic his proposal will move forward despite opposition from some neighbors. He said most of them own parcels on 400th Street between Hwy. 10 and his location, the likely route his patrons would use, and are concerned about the potential for increased traffic in what's been a remote, pristine area. He added he values peaceful serenity in the vicinity, too, having grown up there and holds fond memories of fishing the nearby Rush River as a youth.

While he admits traffic must occur for his project to succeed, he said his property is surrounded by natural terrain, so activities there can't be seen nor heard by others in the neighborhood when they aren't present. However, he's invited his neighbors to join him in his venture, in aspects he envisions including a farmers market and children's pumpkin patch.

The main attractions would be wine availabilities, outdoor dining and musical entertainment Thursday evenings during the warm weather months, Brenner said. A pavilion north of his home along 450th Avenue is being built to accommodate up to 80 diners. Construction was partially complete last week; the structure will otherwise be used for private functions he holds at his home if he's unable to secure all of the approvals needed for his Vino in the Valley plan.

He said he'd like to start the vineyard with 2,100-plus plants on approximately four acres next year.