Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 2:34 am | Fair 60º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Santa Maria Council Overturns Planners’ OK of Wine-Tasting Room

A dispute between a winery seeking to open a tasting room and a neighboring metal-fabrication business will head back to Santa Maria city staff to try to hash out a compromise. 

On Tuesday night, the Santa Maria City Council overturned the Planning Commission’s approval of the Golden Bear Winery’s tasting room permit. 

But the council’s action on a 3-2 vote also called for Community Development Department staff to prepare a modified conditional-use permit that includes a compromise between the applicant, landowner and appellant regarding hours of operation and other aspects.

Neighbor Jonathan Sinor of JD Fabrications had appealed the Planning Commission’s July approval of the tasting room planned for the industrial building at 2115 S. Blosser Road, citing safety concerns and parking limitations.

“I’d rather see it come back to the council rather than go back to the PC (Planning Commission) without the possibility of the council weighing in on this,” said Councilman Jack Boysen who made the motion that was supported by colleagues Terri Zuniga and Bob Orach.

Zuniga added she supported giving the applicant and appellant an opportunity to resolve the dispute, especially since the permit must return to the council. 

Mayor Alice Patino and Councilwoman Etta Waterfield opposed the council’s motion. 

“I don’t see any middle ground, but you're reading it differently than I am,” Patino said. 

Waterfield cited concerns about incompatible businesses operating near each other.

“There are safety issues there,” Waterfield said.

But the dispute, and a similar one involving a craft beer manufacturer’s tasting room, highlight a need to establish a special area for tasting facilities, council members said.

“I think we need to rethink where we really want to encourage these wine-tasting rooms,” Boysen said. 

He asked if the city’s goal is to attract wine tasters to A Street and Blosser Road, or to get wineries to locate the tasting rooms in Downtown Santa Maria.

He and other council members suggested the city may need to create an incentive program to encourage tasting rooms to be located in a more desirable area. 

The Blosser Road site contains a 29,250-square-foot industrial building filled with multiple tenants, and supported by 73 parking spaces.

Golden Bear operates in other units in the industrial building, with limited tasting occurring in a cramped facility, representatives said. 

A wine-tasting facility and retail outlet are crucial for the winery's growth, its owners said.

The wine tasting operation proposed for Unit 114 would be restricted to 15 people including employees.

Golden Bear Winery reportedly conducted thousands of dollars in tenant improvements in the proposed tasting room unit, but did not seek permits for that work.

Property owner William Lavoie told the council Tuesday night the non-permitted work in Unit 114 violated the lease.

“As far as I’m concerned, they are still in violation of the lease, and I really don’t want to sign anything until the lease is cleared,” he said. “In other words, the permits are pulled and I get copies of the contractor’s contract, lien releases, liability insurance. That’s all in the lease that they have to complete all of that stuff.”

If the winery owners don’t meet the terms of the lease, he said, it doesn’t make sense for him to sign a conditional-use permit because he will start the eviction process.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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.

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