Preserve Rural Sonoma County sends Supervisors Concerns on Winery Event Ordinance

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Planning Commission Meeting June 3 2021 | Calendar | Planning Commission…

CriCriteria, the Ordinance would help the County to screen out projects that would likely be
unable to meet mitigation requirements in the use permit process. This early project
screening would protect local residents and reduce the risk to developers who may
otherwise spend considerable resources before coming up short in the decision process. It
would also relieve staff, commissioners and the public from having to review contentious
projects that have significant challenges for approval.
PRSC proposes the following four siting criteria that would address many of the issues
raised in stakeholder discussions:
1. Access off minimum 18-ft. wide County roadway
2. 20-acre minimum parcel size for new wineries
3. Separation criteria of no more than two winery driveways in ½ mile
4. No outdoor amplified sound, except under a limited number of events per a zoning
Minimum 18 ft. roadway
– This requirement was discussed in the Winery Working
Group that included first responder personnel, and it was generally agreed between the
community groups and wine industry that for, new winery applications, there should be
sufficient access/egress for both visitors and emergency vehicles.
20-acre minimum parcel size
– In agricultural areas the minimum zoning is generally 10
acres for DA and 20 acres for LEA and LIA zones. However, there are a number of
parcels in all ag zones that are well below this threshold and that already have use
permits. These small parcels present a challenge because they are usually surrounded
by residences, are often located on rural lanes with poor access, and draw water from
wells that are in close proximity to neighbors’ wells. The 20-acre minimum is included
in the Dry Creek guidelines and is being considered by SVCAC in its guidelines. A 20-
acre minimum standard would reduce many of the siting issues associated with smaller
parcels. Permit Sonoma and the BZA are already starting to informally consider this
criterion in project reviews.
Separation criteria
– a separation criteria that allows a maximum two wineries in a ½
mile stretch of roadway would not only address the over-concentration of winery
facilities in the identified areas of concentration, but it would lessen the potential for
other areas in the County to become over concentrated over time. Both the City of
Healdsburg and the City of Sonoma have enacted standards to address over-
concentration of tasting rooms in their jurisdictions, and the Sonoma Valley CAC is
considering such a standard as well. The BZA has also now begun to consider density in
project approvals.
No outdoor amplified sound
–. In rural areas sound can travel significant distances –
greater than the 1600-foot setback recommended by the sound consultant. Even with
PO Box 983 Sebastopol CA 95473 applicant-monitored “mitigation,” amplified sound can be very disruptive to the
neighborhood. This is why the vast majority of use permits prohibit outdoor amplified
With the changes proposed in this letter, including the revisions incorporated in the
attached markup, the Ordinance would not restrict the expansion of visitor serving uses in
ag-zones overall. The County would continue to issue use permits, and use permit
modifications, with project-specific CEQA review. And the County would retain the right of
discretionary review that limits development on specific parcels where environmental,
safety and neighborhood compatibility, or cumulative impact issues cannot be addressed.
Ideally, an Ordinance with clear definitions and siting criteria would direct development
into areas where it can have fewer impacts and, in order to be in compliance with CEQA, the
ordinance would not allow current use permit holders to engage in new or unspecified
visitor serving uses without first securing approval through a use permit modification.
Thank you
Preserve Rural Sonoma County
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