Kenwood Press

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News: 05/15/2012

Ledson plans new Kenwood winery

Steve Ledson has submitted plans for a new 50,000 case winery in Kenwood, which would be located at Sonoma Hwy. and Frey Road.

Ledson filed a use permit application in April with the county’s Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) for a development at 7950 Sonoma Hwy.

The project encompasses winery facilities and vineyards on over 20 acres now covered with walnut orchard, and owned by Ledson. A parcel at the corner of Lawndale Road and Sonoma Hwy. – currently a residence owned by a relative of Ledson’s – is not part of the development.

Details in the use permit application include the conversion of the walnut orchards to vineyard, two 6000-square-foot barn structures for winery production, another 6000-square-foot facility, and a 17,000-square-foot tasting room structure.

According to documents filed by Axia Architects, the maximum height of any of the structures would be 50 feet, and there would be 110 parking spaces.

Under the proposal, the winery, which would be called the William Cunningham Winery, would have public tasting, retail sales, and up to 24 special events.

Primary access to the winery is proposed to be off of Frey Road. A traffic study conducted for the development recommends that Frey Road along the project frontage be upgraded to meet county standards for anticipated truck traffic.

The study, conducted by Santa-Rosa based Transpedia Consulting Engineers, also concluded that a left turn lane into Frey Road from Sonoma Hwy. may be needed, as well as a “refuge” lane for cars taking a left onto the highway from Frey.

Ledson is a well-known Sonoma Valley figure with deep family roots. He grew up on a ranch near Kenwood, and currently owns Ledson Winery across from Oakmont, Ledson Construction & Development, Ledson Hotel in Sonoma, and Zina Hyde Cunningham Winery in Mendocino County. He also runs the Harmony Foundation for Children, a non-profit serving needy boys and girls. Ledson could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Ledson bought much of the 25-plus acres of walnut groves back in 2009, after the deaths of his relatives, Cliff and Adeline Rich. The namesake for the winery, William Cunningham, was Ledson’s great grandfather, who originally bought the ranch in 1919.

If approved, the development would be one of five potential wineries that could be built off of Sonoma Hwy. on a three-mile stretch from Lawndale Road to just above Oakmont Dr. These are: a 10,000 case winery across the highway from the Ledson project (part of the approved Sonoma Country Inn/La Campagna resort), a 125,000 case winery with a vested use permit at 6685 Sonoma Hwy., a 60,000 case winery at 6687 Sonoma Hwy. (currently under review by PRMD), and a 50,000 case winery with a vested use permit at 6545 Sonoma Hwy.

There are two wineries currently in operation along this stretch – St. Francis Winery at the corner of Sonoma Hwy. and Pythian Road, and Ledson Winery at 7335 Sonoma Hwy.

The application for William Cunningham Winery has been deemed incomplete by PRMD, but project planner Steve Padovan said the information needed for completion was relatively minor.

However, in the incompletion letter sent to Ledson, Padovan brought up a potential issue that may need to be addressed down the line. Padovan pointed out that the project is within what’s known as a Community Separator, defined by the county’s General Plan as “lands that function as rural open space to separate cities and other communities.”

According to Padovan’s letter to Ledson, “the proposed design and substantial office operations and scale of the project appear to be inconsistent with the rural character of the area.”

After the application is deemed complete, it will then be referred out to other county departments for comment, and eventually will go to public hearing.

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