Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission considers winery events ordinance

Proposed revisions would bring consistency to event approval process, says Permit Sonoma.|

The Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission considered newly proposed county guidelines for winery events, expanding definitions and standards for the wine industry, especially for unincorporated areas of the county.

The proposed new standards for the wine industry were crafted by the Sonoma County Planning Commission and would affect permitting for winery events and the creation of operating standards for the unincorporated parts of the county, Permit Sonoma project manager Brian Oh said.

“The (Sonoma County Planning) Commission now has a set of guidelines specific to Sonoma Valley that would, I imagine, influence the discussions that the (SVCAC) has with a future applicant,” Oh said during the Sept. 28 meeting.

Planning Commission Memo on Winery Ordinance.pdf

The proposed definitions would create county-wide standards for unincorporated areas like Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma Valley. The planning commission’s proposal would also rectify any differing definitions for industry terms like “winery,” “wine trade activities” and “commercial kitchen.”

Many terms identified by the planning commission have no definition in Sonoma Valley that includes “food and wine pairing” and “third party rentals.”

While some of these terms are new for Sonoma Valley, many of the proposed definitions under consideration were influenced by the “DNA” of Sonoma Valley winery guidelines.

An update to the winery ordinance has been under review by Permit Sonoma since 2014, according to Brian Oh, planning manager for Permit Sonoma. Oh met with members of the SVCAC Wednesday to review how the changes could affect Sonoma wineries and tasting rooms.

On June 7, the county planning commission directed staff to return with a new definition and standard for tasting rooms and outdoor fire areas.

Bradley Dunn, policy manager with Permit Sonoma, believes the revisions will result in a stronger winery events ordinance.

"We've done extensive stakeholder work that will define the rules of the road that will make permitting more consistent for the benefit of both neighbors and wineries alike," Dunn said this week.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing Nov. 1 to consider adopting the new standards and definitions to the county’s winery events ordinance.

The Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission did not provide recommendations about the planning commission’s winery events ordinance on Wednesday. The date for the next SVCAC is Oct. 26.

The winery events ordinance will be heard at the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 1.

“We expect the staff report to be released in the first two weeks of October with plenty of time for public review of any of those changes. And in time for us to get in front of the board on the first of November,” Oh said.

Contact Chase Hunter at chase.hunter@sonomanews.com and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the actions of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission in regards to the winery events ordinance. The SVCAC does not vote on county-wide policies.

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