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Land-use fight shutters York County winery

Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, a winery and event venue overlooking the Susquehanna River in Lower Windsor Township, York County, was forced to close as of June 9 as the result of a court order in a six-year-old legal battle between winery owner Jim Miller and neighboring homeowners Matthew Balsavage and Amanda Perko. 

In a lawsuit filed in York County court in 2018, Balsavage and Perko argued that Miller’s business violates restrictive covenants limiting commercial use of homes in their section of the Lauxmont Farms development, a collection of high-end houses on bluffs above the Susquehanna.

In counter filings, Miller argued that the business had been approved under township zoning decisions and was protected as an agricultural operation in land zoned for agriculture.

What’s the verdict: In a ruling issued May 20, York County Judge Clyde Vedder sided with the homeowners, who asked that the court bar Moon Dancer from operating.

“They are merely trying to vindicate the property rights of their deed, and those deed restrictions were apparent, and should have been apparent, to anybody buying property in this subdevelopment,” said Mark Bradshaw, an attorney with law firm Stevens & Lee

He represented Balsavage and Perko, who originally bought the house in Lauxmont Farms in 2016, according to court filings.

In an interview Miller said he was “blindsided” by the ruling.

“We’re really happy with the business, the way it’s been growing,” said Miller, noting he recently installed a $100,000 bottling line imported from Italy. “This just obviously puts the brakes on everything until we can get it resolved.”

What’s next: Miller and his lawyers filed an emergency motion last week to rescind the May order.

It is unclear what will happen if the order stays in place, though it could be appealed to state court.

In the meantime, Miller said he is working with other venues to move events planned for Moon Dancer.

The background: Miller, a former bond trader, began planting grapes on his property in 1998 and opened the winery in 2004. It employs a dozen people, though it hires more during the summer busy season.

Over the years, Miller added land to the original tract and now operates on about 50 acres.

Moon Dancer Vineyards & WInery

Moon Dancer Vineyards & Winery, a winery and event venue overlooking the Susquehanna River in Lower Windsor Township, York County, was forced to close as of June 9 as the result of a court order in a six-year-old legal battle between winery owner Jim Miller and neighboring homeowners Matthew Balsavage and Amanda Perko. 

In a lawsuit filed in York County court in 2018, Balsavage and Perko argued that Miller’s business violates restrictive covenants limiting commercial use of homes in their section of the Lauxmont Farms development, a collection of high-end houses on bluffs above the Susquehanna.

In counter filings, Miller argued that the business had been approved under township zoning decisions and was protected as an agricultural operation in land zoned for agriculture.

What’s the verdict: In a ruling issued May 20, York County Judge Clyde Vedder sided with the homeowners, who asked that the court bar Moon Dancer from operating.

“They are merely trying to vindicate the property rights of their deed, and those deed restrictions were apparent, and should have been apparent, to anybody buying property in this subdevelopment,” said Mark Bradshaw, an attorney with law firm Stevens & Lee

He represented Balsavage and Perko, who originally bought the house in Lauxmont Farms in 2016, according to court filings.

In an interview Miller said he was “blindsided” by the ruling.

“We’re really happy with the business, the way it’s been growing,” said Miller, noting he recently installed a $100,000 bottling line imported from Italy. “This just obviously puts the brakes on everything until we can get it resolved.”

What’s next: Miller and his lawyers filed an emergency motion last week to rescind the May order.

It is unclear what will happen if the order stays in place, though it could be appealed to state court.

In the meantime, Miller said he is working with other venues to move events planned for Moon Dancer.

The background: Miller, a former bond trader, began planting grapes on his property in 1998 and opened the winery in 2004. It employs a dozen people, though it hires more during the summer busy season.

Over the years, Miller added land to the original tract and now operates on about 50 acres.

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