Former school could become winery

CALLENDER – A defunct Callender school building is one step closer to becoming a winery.

Bill Bush and Cindy Bush of Garden Winery of Gowrie have had their proposal to turn the Callender school, which has been vacant for several years, into their new winery approved by the Prairie Valley Community School District, which owns the building, and the Callender City Council.

The sale of the building has not been made yet. A meeting of the Prairie Valley school board is scheduled for June 17.

The Bushes appeared before the Callender Board of Adjustment Thursday to have a variance approved on city ordnance, allowing the business to occupy its current zone as a Class A building, which is allowed if it meets city criteria. In this case, the criteria include a noise limit set at 85 decibels from its fence, assured privacy for customers of a nearby bed and breakfast and clear parking zones.

According to Bill Bush, the changes would be self-financed at first, with work starting on their new tasting room and the banquet areas.

“The tasting room all we have to do is paint a little bit,” he said. “The floor is fine, the ceiling is fine. The cabinets are fine. We’re putting a tasting bar in. The processing room, the carpet has to come up. Tanks will go in there. Then we’re going to start working on the gym and the library.”

Bush added that the playground equipment currently on the lot would remain in Callender.

“It’s from your town, it needs to stay here,” he said. “When we were in Gowrie, we tried to do what we could for Gowrie. We’re coming to Callender now, we want to stay in Callender.”

Bush warned that, in manufacturing wine, there would be a subtle fruit scent or the scent of yeast sometimes dissipating from the building.

Dennis Tucker, a Gowrie resident, spoke about his concerns regarding the school’s legacy.

“I have a big heart toward that school,” Tucker said. “We’ve got a time capsule out in front and (the school board) promised me they would save that here or move it to the other elementary school so we could open that in 50 years, which would be 2026.”

Cindy Bush said the time capsule would be left there, and that their plan is to preserve the exterior of the school.

“We want to preserve it as much as we can, the history of it,” she said. “Our intention is not to go in and change any of the structure.”

Cindy Wagner, who would not identify where she was from, said the building should serve the community and, for example, be made into apartments.

“I think it’s the worst idea ever presented,” she said. “This does not increase anything to the community as far as people moving into the community. The big draw, in a community, is a school.”

Shawn George, a City Council member, defended the plan, noting that Prairie Valley has been trying to sell the building for years.

“The people complaining about it, they don’t even live in the city,” he said. “There is nobody here that is a resident of this town who is complaining about this. We’re beating a dead horse. We need to move forward.”

Board member Jim Hanson defended the plan, as well, arguing it would be a benefit to the city.

“This could be a big thing,” he said. “Bigger than people think.”

The board approved the variations to the city ordnance unanimously.