SodaCanyonRoad | Director Morrison begins quantifying the future
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Director Morrison begins quantifying the future


Bill Hocker | Mar 2, 2015 on: The WDO

PC agenda letter: Proposed method for evaluating future winery visitation proposals
Barry Eberling's NVR piece: County planners grapple with caps on winery visitation

A principal argument that we have used against the Mountain Peak proposal is that the capacity and visitation for the project were excessively high for the location. It is based on a Supervisors directive that accompanied the 2010 WDO:
    "To ensure that the intensity of winery activities is appropriately scaled, the County considers the remoteness of the location and the amount of wine to be produced at a facility when reviewing use permit proposals, and endeavors to ensure a direct relationship between access constraints and on- site marketing and visitation programs."
DIrector Morrison, in an effort to get a handle on complaints from the Planning Commission and the public that requests for visitation seemed to be arbitrary and that guidance is needed, has proposed to the commission, by way of clarifying the Supervisors directive, a two-step process to link visitation and permitted capacity.

Step 1: (a) Take the median (or else average) visitations for all existing wineries with a similar capacity to the proposed winery as a base visitation number to be used.
(b) Or more simply, based on a review of existing winery traffic numbers, use an average of 275 visitor slots/yr per 1000 g/y of wine capacity as a base visitation for new wineries.

Step 2: Modifiy the base visitation up or down based on certain criteria, that define remoteness and other site constraints. Each criterion will no doubt require its own quantification.

The median and the average numbers proposed for each metric for step1(a) above are quite different from one another, and there is no indication in the analysis which of the values would be used to evaluate new projects.

One statistic in this analysis was interesting. The AW zone contains 58% of the wineries in Napa county and yet they account for just 18% the permitted capacity . Those same wineries generate 34% of the visitations slots.

The percentages were used to differentiate the AW form the AP zones, but these numbers also tend toward an economic argument that needs to be made in the county wide visitation-to-production ratio: A large majority of wineries in the county generate little wine but a lot of visitation. Those large visitation numbers demanded by the many small wineries to increase the profits of their inefficient operations increase development pressure on the ag preserve, either through event center conversion of vineyards, or the need to expand municipalities to accommodate tourists and a tourism work force, and put the entire viability of an agricultural economy at risk for large and small producers alike.