SVCAC to review latest VJB plans
VJB Vineyards and Cellars off of Sonoma Highway in downtown Kenwood has come up with its latest proposal to modify its use permit, a proposal now scheduled to go under review by the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC).
The SVCAC meeting is public and set for Wednesday, April 26, 6:30 p.m., in the meeting room of the Sonoma Police Department, 177 First St. West in Sonoma.
The SVCAC is an advisory panel that makes recommendations to government planning officials on development projects. The county’s Board of Zoning Adjustments will meet later this year to decide on whether or not to approve VJB’s permit modification requests.
VJB has submitted to county planners a number of use permit modification requests over the last few years, but none of the applications apparently have been deemed ready for full county review and resolution until now.
In the meantime, a number of neighbors of VJB have been put off by the delays in county decision making, frustrated by what they see as continued violations by VJB of its existing permit, and the amount of parking lot overflows of tourist cars, vans and buses the popular establishment generates on adjacent, narrow residential streets.
Previously, VJB has responded to claims of use permit violations by maintaining that that there are no uses on its property that have not been granted by the county through use or building inspection permits.
With its February filing, VJB is asking the county for a number of things, including approval to use a piece of property across the street from its Shaw Avenue access for a parking lot. Last year VJB bought the property, which is zoned commercial, and took down a residential building that was on it. VJB has submitted a design for a 53-space parking lot at 75 Shaw Ave., which would be in addition to the 36 spaces VJB already has on site.
VJB also wants the county to sanction the use of a parking lot two blocks north on Sonoma Highway, belonging to Kenwood dentist Keith Boxerman, for employee parking on weekends and holidays, and use of space at Wellington Winery two miles away on Dunbar Road (which VJB owns) for bus, van and limousine parking.
VJB would like the county to eliminate a previous condition of installation of a right-turn lane at the corner of Shaw Avenue and Sonoma Highway, as well as a requirement for a left-turn lane into Shaw Avenue from the highway.
In the original permit, VJB was allowed a maximum of 15 special events a year with up to 100 people, but only after construction of a left-turn lane. VJB is now dropping their special event request, and argues, in part, that doing so negates the need for the left-turn lane. VJB has also said that their consultants have determined that the left-turn lane would require obtaining rights-of-way from adjacent properties, and that VJB, “has no authority or power” to accomplish this.
Other items in the use permit modification request have to do with food service, including asking the county for “clarification that the preparation and self-service (no wait staff) of cooked food from the barbecue and pizza oven in the outdoor picnic/patio/dining areas can occur on a daily basis.” There have been disagreements over the years between VJB and the county over what level of food service is allowed under the terms of the original use permit that was approved in 2007.
Questions or comments about VJB’s proposals can be directed to the county planner assigned to the project, Blake Hillegas, at Blake.Hillegas@sonoma.county.org, 565-1392.