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Planning Commission to hear proposed wine events ordinance

Meeting set for June 3, days after local commission comments

By Jay Gamel

After working sporadically for over seven years to address increasing complaints from rural residents about proliferating wine promotion events, traffic, noise, and concentrated areas of tasting rooms, the county is seeking to get a new ordinance on the books by this fall. Of the three areas generating the most complaints, only Dry Creek Road residents and businesses agreed to specific guidelines for their area. Sonoma Valley may have working guidelines by the end of May, and residents of Westside Road were unable to agree to any numbers for development guidelines. The Sonoma County Planning Commissioners will hear a general ordinance for wine events developed for the whole county on June 3 at 1:50 p.m. Sonoma Valley-specific guidelines may be decided by Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Committee (SVCAC) at their May 27 regular meeting, which was scheduled too late to be covered in this issue. According to the June 3 Planning Commission staff report, the proposed ordinance will be considered at the Aug. 17 meeting of the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The Vintners’ Association has submitted their own draft winery definitions and guidelines to be considered for the new ordinance.

Prior to 1989, no events or wine tastings were allowed on ag-zoned property in Sonoma County. That year, the General Plan was amended to allow “visitor-serving uses that are beneficial to the agricultural industry and compatible with the long-term use of the land.” That policy was expanded in 2008. The current proposal will not require an Environmental Impact Report, according to staff.

New rules require wine events to maintain safe driveway access, with no parking along adjacent county roads, and require traffic studies with applications and implementation of traffic mitigations recommended by those studies, plus traffic management plans.

Information and documents on the proposed ordinance are available online at www.sonomacounty. ca.gov/PRMD/Regulations/Winery- Events. Hearing information is also available at this URL.

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