Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 10:02 am | Fair 66º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara Supervisors Take No Action on Winery Ordinance

Wine industry speaks against ordinance during special meeting and supervisors decide not to move forward with proposed regulation changes

Dozens of people who work in the local wine industry spoke during Tuesday’s special meeting about the proposed winery ordinance. Click to view larger
Dozens of people who work in the local wine industry spoke during Tuesday’s special meeting about the proposed winery ordinance.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara County Supervisors voted to take no action on the proposed winery ordinance that has been fervently opposed by the wine industry during recent public meetings.

The ordinance process has taken five years and was mean to update and clarify regulations for county vineyard and winery operations, including rules for tasting rooms and special events.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, whose district includes the Santa Ynez Valley where many of the local wineries are concentrated, dissented in the 4-1 vote.

Farr said the concerns she’s heard are not about grapes or processing, but large special events. She said she wasn’t prepared to throw the ordinance out and suggested making amendments to the ordinance by addressing some of the concerns brought up by the Santa Barbara Vintners in a detailed letter.

Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf supported Farr’s idea, but the motion failed 2-3.

Then Wolf suggested they “toss the whole thing out” and take no action on the ordinance, which passed.

Both Farr and First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, who are leaving the board after this year, said they didn’t want to fund a task force to further work on the ordinance when they wouldn’t be around to find the money during the next budget cycle.

Carbajal said the county made a valiant effort with the ordinance but “something went amiss.”

Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam talked about the county's right to farm ordinance, and said the ordinance was an attempt to narrowly define some agricultural districts as residential. 

Several speakers at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting sported stickers touting, “Say Yes to Wine.” Click to view larger
Several speakers at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting sported stickers touting, “Say Yes to Wine.” (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“As we continue to urbanize rural areas we will continue to run into these conflicts and this is why we have a right to farm ordinance in the first place,” he said.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said the world-renowned industry generates millions of dollars in taxes, preserves open space, employs thousands of people, and people in his district want to see it grow and flourish. 

He said he didn't want a few people in the Santa Ynez Valley to write the plan that impacts the wine industry of the entire county.

About 60 people spoke at Tuesday’s special meeting on the ordinance and almost all of them were people who work in the local wine industry, or related tourism and hospitality fields, and oppose the proposed ordinance.   

County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni told the Board of Supervisors that taking no action on the ordinance means a future board could bring it back up for consideration.

During public comment, ordinance opponents talked about the economic impact of the wine industry and said the proposed ordinance would be more restrictive than other areas, stifle new ventures, and provide no protection for existing establishments without a grandfather clause.

Santa Barbara County Supervisors decided to take no action on the proposed winery ordinance. Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, left, wanted to pass the ordinance with amendments addressing concerns raised by local vintners. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County Supervisors decided to take no action on the proposed winery ordinance. Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, left, wanted to pass the ordinance with amendments addressing concerns raised by local vintners.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Smaller winery owners and operators emphasized the need to sell directly to consumers, and have tasting rooms.

Morgen McLaughlin, executive director of the Santa Barbara Vintners, said the wine industry should be allowed to thrive under a fair and balanced set of regulations.

A few Ballard Canyon residents spoke in support of the ordinance, saying they wanted reasonable growth of the wine and were concerned about traffic and noise associated with more visitors to the area. 

Hundreds of people have attended meetings throughout the ordinance development process, and supporters asked the board to adopt it.

“This ordinance is a compromise,” Mary Beth Kerr said. “We worked long and hard to get it here. Please approve it.”

The Board of Supervisors delayed a vote at the Nov. 1 meeting on the ordinance until it could get additional input from the Santa Barbara Vintners, and ultimately decided not to move forward with the ordinance.

The County Planning Commission recommended the ordinance for adoption after multiple meetings. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Santa Barbara County Winery Ordinance Comparison Table by Giana Magnoli on Scribd

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