Thanks for your recent article “Tackling Winery Permits” which notes that one proposal “being floated for managing winery permits in rural Sonoma County is citizen advisory committees, which could get a first look at applications and make recommendations…..”
This approach raises serious issues. In Dry Creek for example, where this type of committee has been operating the past few years, the voting structure of committee gives wine industry representatives an effective veto of any meaningful standards or limitations that they do not feel meet their interests.
Leaving the decisions up to the Dry Creek committee has not solved any problems, in fact they have been exacerbated by loosening standards for food service, increasing entitlements over what was approved by the County in the past.
Handing the responsibility for formulating these regulations off to the local committees often dominated by vintners is simply the abdication of responsibility by the county; putting the proverbial fox in the hen house.
If done properly we can have a thriving wine visitor industry that supports healthy agriculture in a way that preserves the very reason tourists come to wine country in the first place – rural character. That is what good planning should be about.
The bottom line is that the County is responsible to the entire community when it comes to safety, environmental and quality of life concerns, and turning the process over to industry dominated committees to promulgate regulations is not fulfilling a proper governmental function. We see the same kind of thing happening in Washington DC when industry titans and lobbyists are appointed heads of agencies created to regulate those industries; the result is gutting of public and consumer protections.
Padi Selwyn, co-chair
Preserve Rural Sonoma County