A winery proposed for a gateway location in Buellton won the Planning Commission’s approval last week after members heard from those supporting and opposing the project.
Chanin Wine Company, a small company producing high-end wines, proposed a 16,510-square-foot building on an acre site at 291 Industrial Way — the southwest corner of Industrial Way and Highway 246 — to house a tasting room, office, production and storage facilities in Agrarian-style buildings.
Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to approve the project, noting the applicant had implemented changes based on the panel’s prior suggestions.
“They’ve done an outstanding job of presenting and mitigating almost everything on this project, and they’ve gone above and beyond what’s been expected,” commissioner Art Mercado said, adding the project meets requirements of the Buellton General Plan.
“I think this will be a useful project here in Buellton and it’s done so nicely it will make our gateway to Buellton, and that’s very important,” he added.
“I believe that the designs and plans have been very thoughtful to the area and to the community including the neighbors,” chairwoman Patty Hammel said.
The site serves as the gateway to Industrial Way wineries, breweries, distilleries and eateries along with the gateway for the city’s business area on Highway 246 west of Highway 101.
According to the applicant, design choices made for the winery’s operations and to be a good neighbor include avoiding putting trash containers or parking on the site’s west side, which is adjacent to a mobile home park.
“Originally, the input from the city is they would love to see the property be a gateway to Industrial Way and kind of be a gem on that street, and I think we have succeeded on this,” applicant Gavin Chanin said.
The project will include a driveway for entrance and exit on Industrial Way with another driveway for exit and right turn only onto Highway 246.
Ten mature coast live oaks will be preserved, but two, one deemed ill and one healthy, will be removed. New oak trees also will be planted at the site.
After the applicant’s proposal, some audience members spoke up in favor of the project.
Brooke Storm from Storm Wines said the Chanin Wine project would be a beneficial addition to Buellton.
“I think that his wines and his reputation will bring a lot of visitors to the area,” she said. “The structure as we can all see is beautiful, and I think it’s going to be a welcome addition to that lot.”
Residents also spoke out against the removal of any trees and called for another arborist analysis of the ill tree to confirm whether it could be saved.
City Councilman Hudson Hornick, saying he was speaking in his personal capacity and would not take part in discussions if the project is appealed to the City Council, aired several concerns, including the proposed removal of a large oak tree.
“That oak tree is something of a monument in the city,” Hornick said, adding another restaurant had built around a large tree and it was a missed opportunity in Buellton.
After his comments, Hammel pointed out that council members, even those claiming they are there in a personal capacity, are “strongly discouraged” from attending Planning Commission meetings and commenting on projects.
“Are you discouraging me?” Hornick asked.
“I am and I believe it’s our policy, it’s city policy,” said Hammel, suggesting that Hornick should talk to the city manager and city attorney.
Hornick said he had consulted the city attorney.
“You have the appearance of influencing our decision,” Hammel added.
“I’m speaking on a personal capacity,” Hornick said. “That’s my right as a public citizen.”
“I do have a right to be here and talked with the city attorney about it. Maybe you should as well.”
Traditionally, council members don’t attend or speak at Planning Commission meetings since items can be appealed to them. Any comments made can lead to accusations of bias for or against a project and allegations of interference with planning commissioners’ role.
“Members of the City Council should not attempt to influence or publicly criticize commission or committee recommendations, or to influence or lobby individual commission or committee members on any item under their consideration,” according to the City Council handbook for neighboring Solvang.