Though featuring the dullest title of any of the four prior informational workshops that the County of Santa Barbara is hosting as part of its winery ordinance revision process — “Winery Ordinance Structure, Permitting, and Monitoring and Enforcement” compared to such previous zingers as “Food Service” and “Neighborhood Compatibility” — Thursday afternoon’s session was certainly one of the most important, as it addressed the nuts and bolts of the actual government regulations being discussed. There were about 25 people — not counting the six county employees — in attendance at the Board of Supervisors hearing room, including many of the usual suspects from the wine industry and the concerned neighborhood contingents.
It was the last in the five-meeting series, and many of the sentiments explained before were uttered again — particularly neighbors’ fears of bad roads and the impact of special events and tasting rooms as well as the wine industry’s worries over making the ordinance so restrictive that it forces would-be winemakers to leave the area. The conversation — which was designed as an open call for ideas from the crowd so planners know what to focus on when revising the existing ordinance — occasionally got a little tense, and featured some verbal jousting between vintner Stephen Pepe and neighborhood watchdog Bob Field, who also called out the Public Works official across the room for having lax road standards.
Other than that, there were repeated requests that the future ordinance clearly address all the other agencies and regulations affecting wineries and vineyards — such as the county’s “Right to Farm” rules, state alcohol laws, and federal labor requirements — and that the county be very clear in letting the public know how to lodge complaints as well as when complaints aren’t called for. There was brief discussion of overlay districts, some talk of possibly processing special events under an additional conditional use permit, and news about the ongoing growth of a winery task force composed of various association leaders, who are developing their own ordinance suggestions as well. Planning department director Glenn Russell also expressed his desires to keep the ordinance revision from triggering a full-scale environmental impact report, which would cost much more time and money, but said that it had to remain a possibility for now.
Most notably, though, was that the end of the meeting triggered a two-week window for any final comments to be submitted to the planning department, which will then work for two months or so on developing a draft of the revised ordinance. Once complete, that will be disseminated to the public, and then a new round of hearings will commence, likely three months or so from now. To learn more or to comment, click here.