Kenwood Press

Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

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News: 09/01/2020

VJB use permit hearing postponed

The Aug. 27 tentatively scheduled Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA) hearing to hear a use permit modification request from VJB Vineyards & Cellars in Kenwood, was continued to an undetermined date.

The reason? The Permit Sonoma planner assigned to the project, Blake Hillegas, said that there might be possible solutions to putting a left-turn lane from Sonoma Highway onto Shaw Avenue, where the entrance to VJB is located.

The left-turn lane requirement was an original condition established back when the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors gave final approval to the VJB project in 2007. Over the years, VJB has argued that the left-turn lane wasn’t feasible construction-wise, in part due to right-of-way issues. VJB has also maintained that the left-turn requirement was tied into having approved special events, events VJB said they will forego, negating the need for a left-turn lane requirement.

A 2019 traffic study commissioned by VJB recommended shoulder widening instead of a left-turn lane, according to the county’s recent Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), an environmental document prepared by the county.

According to Permit Sonoma’s Hillegas, possible solutions regarding installation of the left-turn lane include restriping or other adjustments that could utilize less right-of-way, or avoid the need to acquire additional right-of-way.

The possibility of adding the left-turn lane back into the project would require the use permit modification request to again be referred to other departments and agencies for review. An update to the MND will have to take place as well, according to Hillegas.

VJB, which first opened in Kenwood in 2012, has had numerous filings over the years to modify its original use permit, but for a number of reasons has never gotten to the formal hearing stage.

The current permit modification request includes, in part, allowing VJB to formally operate a commercial kitchen and patio restaurant food service for up to 313 people per day, installation of a new septic system, and the construction of a 53-space parking lot on vacant property VJB owns across from the entrance on Shaw Avenue.

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