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Sonoma County stalls winery ordinance update again

Sonoma County supervisors stalled a long anticipated update on the county’s winery ordinance late October. Voting 4-1, with First District Supervisor Susan Gorin dissenting, the board sent the updates back to staff for additional work and revisions. The update had been approved by the county’s Planning Commission.

The ordinance would have established new standards for winery events including parking requirements, food service, event coordination, traffic management and noise standards to address the impact of winery visitor-serving uses on agricultural land. New and modified use permits would have been subject to the new standards, while existing permits would not be impacted.

“The wine industry plays a critical role in Sonoma’s economy,” said Tennis Wick, director of Permit Sonoma. “We are proud to work with the industry and neighbors to develop regulations that balance winery needs while protecting our rural communities and agriculture.”

The ordinance will work to set standards to provide a baseline for how the County of Sonoma will balance preservation of agricultural areas with sustainable development of wine industry events when evaluating individual use permits and their impacts. According to an Oct. 28 press release by Permit Sonoma, the county’s permitting department "will utilize these standards when considering new and modified use permit applications for winery visitor-serving uses outside of the Coastal Zone.“ The draft ordinance also seeks to provide consistency and clarity to the use permit evaluation process, reduces impacts to surrounding properties, protects agricultural lands and preserves rural character.

This draft is the culmination of years of outreach and engagement with stakeholders and communities across the county. In addition to noise and traffic studies, the ordinance is informed by community input received during numerous stakeholder meetings and community workshops, including a 195-person public workshop on Feb. 18. Additionally, Permit Sonoma has worked with the communities of three areas where there is a concentration of visitor-serving wineries, in Sonoma Valley, Westside Road and Dry Creek Valley, to establish supplemental local guidelines. The draft winery events ordinance was recommended unanimously by the Planning Commission.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated the author was an employee of Permit Sonoma. This article was written using information from the press release. The Sonoma County Gazette regrets the error.

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