Shepherd Bliss, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
Residents from throughout Sonoma County are meeting to strategize about challenging recent proposals for new and expanded wineries as event centers in rural areas. Meanwhile, the Napa County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a March 10 meeting to hear critics of winery over-development.
The huge Dairyman Winery and Distillery proposed for high-speed Highway 12 in the greenbelt separator between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa has been the main target of Sonoma County opponents. It is near the intersection of an already congested two-lane highway and the frequently-flooded Llano Road in the vulnerable Laguna de Santa Rosa vicinity.
Groups such as Sonoma County Conservation Action, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, Sebastopol Water Information Group, Rural Alliance, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, and Apple Roots sent critical comments on Dairyman to Sonoma County’s Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD).
Vocal Dairyman opponents include a former County supervisor, former mayor, former Planning Commissioner, and former PRMD planner. Environmental scientists, sustainability advocates, food farmers, concerned parents, and the maker of the acclaimed film “Russian River: All Rivers” have spoken against the Dairyman application.
Entrance to Dairyman Winery just east of busy intersection on Hwy 12
They oppose it on many grounds: congested traffic; water over-use, especially during droughts; blocking the popular Joe Rodota trail; damaging the fragile Laguna de Santa Rosa and its wildlife; zoning violations; chemical use that would pollute water, air, and land; and violating the Sonoma County General Plan.
Grape growers and the wine industry contribute many valuable benefits to Sonoma County. Most critics appreciate a good glass of local wine. But they advocate moderation when it comes to such proposals, contending that Dairyman is too big and in the wrong place.
Imagine tipsy tasters crossing the Joe Rodota Trail, full of bikers, skateboarders, children in strollers, walkers, and pets and then entering 60 miles-an-hour traffic. The application demands that Trail users “yield” to the winery’s many vehicles attending up to 58 events a year with as many as 600 people a time.
Read more via Sonoma and Napa County Residents Oppose Winery Over-Expansion.
Barry Eberling, NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
Napa County’s wine country is facing a type of soul-searching that often comes with wealth and fame – is it being true to its roots or in danger of being ruined by its own success?
Some people say there are too many wineries emphasizing too much tourism and generating too much traffic while sucking aquifers dry. Others say that Napa Valley’s agricultural paradise is in no danger of being paved over.
An activity that once seemed a natural in wine country – building wineries – is increasingly sparking debate. So far, the discussion has come largely on a piecemeal, project-by-project basis. That’s about to change.
The county Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission will meet on March 10 to discuss what Supervisor Diane Dillon has called “the big picture.” That could be just the beginning of a months-long public discussion that could shape Napa’s future.
Data will be important. County Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison has mentioned using the latest traffic, tourism and growth information.
Read more via Napa County to explore the price of wine success.
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sebastopol City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to urge Sonoma County officials to deny approval for a large-scale winery and distillery being proposed on former dairyland off Highway 12 about 2 miles east of town.
The application for the proposed Dairyman Winery and Distillery is still months away from formal consideration by county planning bodies, but the plan already is generating opposition among conservationists and Sebastopol-area residents concerned about potential impacts on wildlife, traffic, water supply and the area’s status as a community separator. Many feel the project is more industrial than agricultural; the property is zoned for farming.
Among the issues is the project’s location in the middle of protected habitat for the California tiger salamander, which is federally listed as an endangered species. There also are seasonal wetland areas on the site associated with Gravenstein Creek, which runs through the property and is a tributary to the Laguna de Santa Rosa.
Opponents also fear gridlock on an already congested two-lane stretch of Highway 12, given estimates for event attendance at the winery and trucking of up to 1,000 tons of grapes per year to the site, some of which would be held in cold storage for later processing.
There are about 40 acres of vineyards on the property that would stay in production, said Napa Valley vintner Joe Wagner, who owns the 68-acre property and is proposing the project.
Wagner, whose Belle Glos winery is among several labels owned by his family — the same clan behind Caymus Vineyards — envisions a full-scale winemaking and bottling operation large enough to eventually make 500,000 cases of wine a year, as well as 250,000 gallons of distilled spirits.
Read more via Sebastopol City Council urges denial of large proposed | The Press Democrat.
Alec Peters, THE KENWOOD PRESS
Neighbors opposed to the county’s approval of a use permit for a public winery and creamery on Sonoma Mountain Road have gone to court alleging that the county failed to properly evaluate the project’s environmental impacts.
The suit was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court on Nov. 13 by Friends of Sonoma Mountain Road, and various neighbors of the Belden Barns project.
In October, the Board of Supervisors gave the nod to Belden Barns Winery and Creamery, a 10,000 case per year winery, and 10,000 pounds of cheese per year creamery. Also approved were tasting by appointment, retail sales, and up to 10 events (five with up to 60 people, three with up to 100, and two with up to 200). The 55-acre parcel is located at 5561 Sonoma Mountain Road.
The board vote was 4-1, with First District Supervisor Susan Gorin opposed, raising issues about the project’s compatibility with the rural area and expressing concerns about the project’s impact on Sonoma Mountain Road, a 7.5-mile stretch that in some places is winding, narrow and in disrepair.
Opponents of the project had gathered the names of over 140 residents in the Sonoma Mountain Road and Bennett Valley area, encouraging denial of the project.
During the Board of Supervisors hearing, much of the debate centered around disputes over environmental studies conducted for the project.
In the lawsuit, Friends of Sonoma Mountain Road alleged a number of violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the state’s environmental law.
According to the lawsuit, county approval of the project was made despite, “substantial evidence in the record that the Project may cause a significant impact on the environment; including, but not limited to, groundwater impacts, traffic impacts, traffic safety impacts, noise impacts, visual impacts, general and area plan inconsistency, and cumulative impacts.”
The lawsuit asks the court to order that a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) be done.
via The Kenwood Press – Lawsuit filed over Sonoma Mountain Road winery/creamery.
Mike Dunne, THE SACRAMENTO BEE
If you have one of those “Save Water Drink Wine” bumper stickers on your car, you might want to rip it off.
And not only because the wit is so lame.
The advice is erroneous. In this time of drought, a bumper sticker urging fellow motorists to “Save Water Drink Water” makes more sense.
After all, 29 gallons of water were used to produce that glass of cabernet sauvignon you look forward to drinking with tonight’s dinner.
That, at least, is the calculation of the Water Footprint Network, a nonprofit foundation in the Netherlands that advocates for more sustainable, efficient and fair ways to use water.
Read more via Dunne on Wine: Water used to make wine becomes issue during drought – Mike Dunne – The Sacramento Bee.
Jeff Quackenbush, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
“The question is, are we at capacity for vineyard acreage, and what are the cumulative impacts?” Mark Luce, Napa board chairman
NAPA — Amid calls for a moratorium on new vineyards and wineries in Napa County because of concerns about visitor traffic and water shortages, county government’s top decision-makers on such projects directed staff to give them a clearer view on the situation by this fall and develop solutions for streamlining the environmental-review process and informing more neighbors about project proposals.
Concerns about how the wine industry grows and uses land in Napa County have been around as far back as the establishment of the trailblazing agricultural preserve in 1968 and the Winery Definition Ordinance WDO of 1990 plus subsequent additions. But they have reached a new fervor in the past few years, as direct-to-consumer DTC marketing, particularly exclusive experiences on estate property, is seen as the lifeline for the luxury side of the business, a local plan for greenhouse-gas emissions curtailment emerges and California’s farms are being increasingly scrutinized for use of groundwater, especially in a year with a governor’s emergency drought declaration.
The confluence of all these streams of public policy flowed through a joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission on May 20. The two meet annually in May and October to discuss land-use planning issues, but the urgency of this meeting was exacerbated by increasing public complaints that they aren’t finding out about wine-related projects soon enough, concern from applicants that the environmental review process was taking too long, neighbor worries about new wells and effects on aquifers, a number of appeals of project approvals and rise in the hospitality-related elements of projects.
via Napa supervisors eye winery visitor impacts – North Bay Business Journal – North San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma, Marin, Napa counties – Archive.
by Bob Norberg, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Hop Kiln Winery’s proposal for a major expansion was denied by Sonoma County officials Thursday as being out of scale with the rural Westside Road.
Westside Grapes, the owner of Hop Kiln, was also told by the Board of Zoning Adjustments that it needs to resolve lingering illegal uses on the property and come back with a proposal for a new production facility.
via County panel denies Hop Kiln Winery’s expansion bid | PressDemocrat.com.