SodaCanyonRoad | Letter sent to PC regarding VMM on Relic Winery

Letter sent to PC regarding VMM on Relic Winery
Bill Hocker | Oct 14, 2014 on: Relic Wine Cellars

Commissioners and Planning Directors,

My name is Bill Hocker and I reside at 3460 Soda Canyon Road.

I would like to take this opportunity while your attention is turned briefly toward Soda Canyon Road to express concerns that will be reiterated when you come to consider the Mountain Peak Project literally further up the road.

Relic Winery and the Caves at Soda Canyon are the two wineries that have been approved on our road since the loosening of tourism restriction in 2010. Both are on properties just over 10 acres in size. Both properties have no grapes and no residence. Both have steep winding one-land access drives with constricted access onto Soda Canyon Road. As wineries both are unnecessary. They have been built solely to offer tourist venues with views of the more remote rural areas of the county - at the expense of the residential community that the road serves.

The introduction of tourism into remote agricultural-residential areas does not serve the interest of maintaing the agricultural economy of the county. The vineyards that will supply them are currently supplying their grapes to other wineries. In fact, as I have argued before, the increasing equivalence of the terms "winery" and "event center", i.e. the increasing reliance on tourism as the economic engine of the county, will continue to subvert agriculture and wine production as the two compete for the same land, water, and in our case the same road, for their economic success. Tourism developments, and the developments necessary to accommodate the employees and tourist service industries, will always be able to pay more for those ever more valuable resources.

Nor will this type of tourist development increase the coffers of the county government. What fees and tax revenues are generated will be offset by the necessity of increased road maintenance, and services necessary to provide for the safety and welfare and accommodation of the general public and the employees that service them. Can governments really develop their way out of tight budgets? In our case the road needs improvement - and while it is bearable for agricultural and residential use, will need to be upgraded for daily commercial activity. Most of the intersections of the crossroads and watershed roads with the Trail and Hwy 29, as is the case with our road, already need signalization yet the county is reluctant to spend the money and to highlight a nasty truth - traffic lights are harbingers of the death of agriculture.

And, of course, the "quality of life" of the residents (I place it in quotes because of the dismissive attitude the county often takes when dealing with such NIMBY concerns) will degrade as the noise and light generated by these facilities, their traffic and night time operations cut into the noiseless, dark sky environment of our neighborhood. (The Caves have, in fact, been without electricity for over a year and the sound of their continuous generator has been a continuous annoyance to neighbors). The AP/AW zones of the county are not just agriculture. They are residential communities. These projects along with Mountain Peak represent only 3 of many hundreds of properties along Soda Canyon Road that may be developed into tourism facilities under the conditions allowed by the WDO. Tourism uses, with daily traffic flows, and public, night time activities, are incompatible with rural residential life. At some point, as these commercial developments proliferate along the road the residential community will die.

You have been charged, under the 1990 WDO, to consider the remoteness and accessibility of sites when considering winery projects. Tourism uses, with daily traffic and night time activities, extensive water and sanitation needs are incompatible with rural residential life. In the case of Relic and The Caves I think that this consideration was ignored. I would urge you, in light of this oversight to take special care for the ongoing concerns residents have toward these existing projects and to consider carefully the detrimental impacts tourism might present in the future to the remote rural areas of the county.

Bill Hocker