SodaCanyonRoad | Planning Commission or Zoning Administrator?
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Planning Commission or Zoning Administrator?
Bill Hocker | Oct 26, 2021 on: The Winery Glut

Update 10/25/21 Tamber Bey
Things seem to be getting really strange in the winery review process. The Tamber Bey Winery is up for review at the Planning Commission on 11/3/21. Tamber Bey seems to be asking for a modest revision to permitted production from 60,000 to 80,000 gal/yr. And they are asking for changes to their t&t and marketing events which seem to add a modest 600-850 visitor slots/yr. This request is going through the normal, public planning commission process. (The neighbor does have believable compaints, however.)

The Amizetta Winery, described below, while more modest in production request, is immensly larger and more impactful in its other requests: over 11,000 more visitors/yr than originally permitted, a new tasting room building, expansion of caves and winery, 12 more parking spaces, a commercial kitchen, more employees, setback variances and driveway exceptions, new well and water system, a long dead-end, sub-standard road in a high fire severity zone. Yet it was approved by the less informal and less scrutinized Zoning Administrator process.

The Small Winery Ordinance, aka the "Streamlining Ordinance", is the reason the projects are treated so differently, despite the impacts created by changes to the "small" winery being so much greater than those of the "larger" winery. A large percentage of the 500+ "official" wineries in the county fit into the definition of "small" wineries. Many other "unofficial" wineries may now apply for under the "streamlining" process. All will attempt to max out their visitation and employees within the limits of the 40 trips/day standard (30,000 gal/yr, 11,500 vis/yr, 5 employees) to be approved under the lowered scrutiny and expense of the Zoning Adminsitrator. The cumulative impacts will be significant.

9/25/21 Amizetta Winery
NVR 9/25/21: Two Napa wineries clean up use permit violations

On 9/22/21 the County Zoning Administrator reviewed the proposal for a recognize-allow-expand request for the Amizetta Winery on the remote end of Greenfield Rd. The winery was granted a small winery exemption use-permit in 1986 for 12000 gal/yr and 0 visitation. This request will legalize 8000 more gal/yr, 11090 vis/yr, a new tasting room, expansion of winery and caves, 12 new parking spaces, food service, commercial kitchen, 2 more employees, setback variance, at least 8 driveway exceptions, all at the end of a heavily forested, mostly one-lane, dead-end road 6.3 miles from the Trail. Approving this amount of tourism in such a remote, inaccessable location, and such clear deviations from county road and street standards in such a high-fire hazard zone should be a clear abuse not just of discretion but of common sense.

This is the kind of small-scale, truely "family" winery that is the Napa ideal. But it is now a public accommodation hosting 30 people a day on a long sub-standard road, up an extremely substandard driveway, in a high-fire-risk area, all not envisioned when first approved. The fact that the owners have increased production, expanded facilities and hosted that amount of visitation for some time is not a reason for the county to just say, oh well, I guess it's OK. It needs a public discussion, and more input than just an administrative sign off from a county staff who seems willing to bend or break any of their own standards and ordinances in order to promote the tourism economy. Considering that the Planning Commission just nixed the 3120 visitor/yr expansion on the much less remote Pickett Road Winery, having the ZA just wave through 11,000 visitors/ yr seems a very inconsistent approach to zoning.

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