Dan Verel, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
A group is hoping to slow a vineyard expansion project at Paul Hobbs Winery by arguing that the California Environmental Quality Act should apply, a position that many in the wine industry said could lead to unintended consequences by usurping what they say is an important local provision.
The group, called the The Watertrough Children’s Alliance in Sebastopol, is far from the first to bring CEQA to the legal table in opposing a vineyard or land-use issue. But the group’s efforts also include contesting the permit that the Sonoma County Agricultural Commission issued for the expansion under the Sonoma County Grading, Drainage and Vineyard and Orchard Site Development Ordinance, which is exempt from CEQA. State law, the group argues, should supersede that ordinance, also known as VESCO.
In response to the group’s lawsuit filed late last year that claims the 48-acre expansion at Paul Hobbs Winery should fall under the purview of CEQA, John Holdredge, an attorney for Geary, Shea, O’Donnell, Grattan & Mitchell representing the winery, wrote that using CEQA over the local Sonoma County ordinance would effectively render VESCO “inoperative.”