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Search or post Santa Barbara County food and wine establishments

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 20th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 50

County winery ordinance meetings draw to a close

BY AMY ASMAN

Santa Barbara County residents will get their last chance to sound off about wineries, tasting rooms, and special events on Feb. 21 at a wine ordinance update meeting in Santa Barbara.

This is the fifth and final meeting in a series being hosted by the county’s long-range planning division. It will focus on the ordinance’s structure, as well as permitting, the monitoring of winemaking and tasting facilities, and enforcement of industry regulations.

At the meeting—which will run from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Board of Supervisors conference room—county staff will accept comments from the public regarding the aforementioned subjects.

“We’re not making any conclusions [at the meeting],” said Jeff Hunt, deputy director of long range planning. “We’re pinpointing areas where the ordinance could be improved.”

Hunt said these meetings came about after the Board of Supervisors noted back in 2011 “some contention in the permitting process for wineries.”

That contention was most apparent at the fourth meeting in the series, on Feb. 11, where more than 100 people packed into a Los Olivos church to discuss the impact of wineries and tasting rooms on neighborhoods.

Some popular topics at that meeting included such negative impacts as drunk drivers, traffic, noise, and disruptive lighting; and such positive impacts as job creation and revenue generated by tourism.

At the heart of the matter, Hunt said, is concern that the current ordinance language is unclear and ambiguous.

“There are general questions about the size of winery structures and uses ... about the level of food service in tasting rooms, whether you should just have pretzels or a full meal,” he said.

One goal of the meetings is to better define the three tiers under which the county’s vineyards and wineries get classified so there isn’t any confusion over which entities can have tasting rooms or be host to special events.

Additionally, Hunt said the current criteria for each tier “is mixed and “not explicit.” Tiers are currently determined based on several factors, such as case production, zoning, lot size, and acreage.

“We’ve had a lot of valuable input over the last four meetings,” he said. “The meetings are productive; we’ve gained more understanding of the concerns that are out there.

“We’re not taking sides on this. We’re kind of caught in the middle,” he added. “We’re addressing the concerns of the neighbors while streamlining the permitting process. The hope is that both sides will get some benefit [from of the new ordinance].”

County staffers will continue to accept comments via e-mail for the next two weeks. Then they’ll start writing a rough draft of the updated ordinance. Hunt said the environmental impact review process is scheduled to begin in the spring. The new ordinance will then go before the Planning Commission and, ultimately, the Board of Supervisors.

For more information or to submit a comment, visit longrange.sbcountyplanning.org and click on “Special Projects.”