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Public workshop on winery event rules set for Feb. 18


New policy will be presented and discussed in breakout groups

Permit Sonoma will roll out its draft County Winery Events Policy and solicit public input at an online workshop set for Feb. 18 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. There will be a slide presentation of the proposed guidelines followed by small group discussions to gather opinions and commentary on the plan to address growing concerns over the impact of wine tourism generated by proliferating tasting rooms, particularly in the west county and Sonoma Valley. The input will be used to “identify, recommend, and incorporate any changes to the [draft]” before the county Board of Supervisors decides on it. Comments must be received by March 1 to be included in the presentation to the supervisors, expected to happen sometime this summer.

Traffic congestion, noise and loss of rural character topped the list of complaints rolling in from residents of Dry Creek, West Side Road and the Sonoma Valley. As the number and size of wineries, tasting rooms, and associated events proliferated over the past two decades, rural residents found their peace and quiet disturbed and became concerned over the numbers of people using the rural roads, especially on weekends.

The county started responding to complaints of over-permitting winery tasting rooms in rural areas in 2015, by convening a stakeholder committee of residents and wine industry members. After mixed results from six months of stakeholder meetings, the county sponsored public workshops in areas generating the most complaints in 2016.

Citizen advisory councils in Dry Creek and Sonoma valleys generated their own policies, applicable to their areas of authority in 2017.

GHD, a consultant hired by the county, issued the Sonoma Valley Capacity Threshold Study in July 2019, suggesting specific changes in county policies regarding event frequency, public access location, and traffic safety, concluding that many rural county roads are in poor condition and not designed to handle current traffic demands safely.

For more information about the workshop, to submit comments, or to review the draft ordinance online, you can send an email to [email protected], call (707) 565-1900, option 5, or visit the project website at www.sonomacounty. Comments may also be sent to 2550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

The agenda will be posted on or after Feb. 11. Registration for the event can be accomplished at the Permit Sonoma website, and will be acknowledged via an email that includes a link to join.