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VJB proposes turn lane

Study calls for tight monitoring

By Jay Gamel

Henry Belmonte is moving ahead with plans to install turn lanes each way from Highway 12 onto Shaw Avenue at VJB Vineyard and Cellars as part of a second Revised Subsequent Mitigated Negative Declaration and Subsequent Initial Study published on June 8. The new document is an updated version of the original application filed in 2007 that called for the turn lanes, which have been repeatedly delayed as several application modifications were filed in the years since.

VJB Vineyard and Cellars now shows its principal address as 60 and 75 Shaw Avenue, though it was formerly designated 9125 Sonoma Highway in Kenwood. Belmonte has acquired a lot at the 75 Shaw address which will become a paved and striped parking lot.

The documents were published too late for a full review to be made before publication of the June 15 issue of the Kenwood Press, but will be covered in detail in subsequent issues. A virtual public hearing has been scheduled for 1 p.m. on July 22 by Permit Sonoma to receive input from interested parties (see below).

The site contains 7,133 square feet of commercial building space and wine storage facilities. According to the permit documentation, the operation contains a wine tasting bar, gelato shop, outdoor barbeque, deli kitchen, outdoor pizza oven, Kenwood Pasta Company, a chocolatier and a Tommy Bahama shop.

Neighbors and other businesses along Highway 12 have been struggling with the owners since they built VJB Cellars on the highway between Shaw and Maple avenues back in 2007. Issues of concern include congested traffic, neighborhood parking, hours of operation, noise, and the scope of permitted activities at the site.

The revised project seeks to modify the use permit and associated conditions of approval and mitigation measures approved in the 2007 Mitigated Negative Declaration of Environmental Impacts. As restated, it would: Authorizing a restaurant with 144 patio seats within a 3,125 square foot portion of an existing patio, including authorized daily use of the existing commercial kitchen, pizza oven and barbeque, would require the installation of a new 1,500-gallon septic system. A 53-space off-site parking lot at 75 Shaw Avenue would have to be finished.

The 2007 northbound Highway 12 left-turn lane requirement that was tied to an option to expand hours and host events will become a Condition of Approval related to the daily operation of a restaurant use. This will eliminate a formerly approved option to expand hours and eliminate a formerly approved option to host up to 15 annual, 100-person special events up to 10 p.m.

On-street parking on both sides of Shaw Avenue from Highway 12 to Clyde Avenue will be forbidden.

The current application contains strong oversight language requiring parking restrictions for Shaw Avenue be requested within 30 days of permit approval. If that can’t be verified, Permit Sonoma “will take immediate enforcement action.” Belmonte will have 30 days to get the turn lane project underway, along with striping and painting requirements for Shaw Avenue.

Water issues are also targeted for strict enforcement.

“The maximum daily number of combined wine tasters and customer served meals shall not exceed 313 persons per day,” to meet the capacity limits of a new 1,500 gallon septic system. Daily customer counts will have to be submitted monthly to verify “that the use is operating within the design capacity of the system and in conformance with the Use Permit.”

Before the parking lot at 75 Shaw Ave. can be graded, the existing fence has to be reinforced to cut down noise in the neighborhood. Grading permits will not be issued until the mitigation is installed.

All the documentation is available for review upon request. Contact [email protected] or (707) 565-1392 for an electronic copy.