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Supervisors approve controversial wine ordinance

By: Gus Thomson, Gold Country News Service
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After two years and more than a dozen public meetings, Placer County has a new planning blueprint for wineries. Supervisors gave a 5-0 vote of approval Aug. 26 to an ordinance intended to encourage the growth of the wine industry in rural Placer County and retain the area’s agricultural underpinnings. With 10 approved wineries in unincorporated areas of the county currently cultivating 230 acres of grapes, supervisors expressed their eagerness to nurture the rebirth of vineyards. Supervisors listened to more than a dozen speakers who expressed concerns about giving up too much ground to wine businesses and creating problems with drunken tourists and the threat of squabbles over use of private roads. Supervisors expressed hopes that any sour grapes over the revision of zoning amendments and establishment of a winery ordinance would be dealt with by notifying all property owners on an applicant’s shared private road early in the review process. Neighbors would also be able to appeal a planning director’s decision to the Planning Commission at no cost. Concerns raised by property owners included possible liability issues associated with added traffic and road-maintenance responsibilities. But other speakers pointed to the benefits of establishing a policy they consider a fair compromise for wineries and their neighbors. Supervisors showed unanimous support for a new ordinance that replaces existing requirements under the county’s zoning ordinance. Standards under the approved ordinance require wineries to be at least 4.6 acres, with one acre of planted vineyard on site. Other standards include: Parking. Small wineries (under 20,000 cases of 12 bottles a year) with public tasting are required to provide five permanent parking spaces. Larger wineries need to meet standards based on the size of use areas. Access: Private access roads serving wineries must meet state and local fire safety standards. The winery also must provide proof that the business has a right to use the road for commercial uses. Tasting facilities. The primary focus of the tasting area must be the marketing and sale of wine produced at the winery. Incidental sales of wine-related merchandise and food are allowed. Promotional events: Develo-pment standards are in place, including duration and minimum parking requirements.