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Napa Adopts New Rules For Non-Compliant Wineries

by Kerana Todorov
December 05, 2018

Napa County's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday adopted new rules to help wineries become compliant with the provisions of their permits. The resolution was approved over objections from environmentalists and others who called the efforts a “whitewash”

Non-compliant wineries – and property owners – have until 2 p.m. March 29 to apply for permits to remedy one or more code violations, according to the resolution the Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday.
The vote was 4-0.

“I’m saying this is step one. I’m saying there are many other steps that will come from this and we’ve got to start somewhere,” Supervisor Belia Ramos said. “This is the starting point.”

She spoke after opponents asked for more time, questioning whether the county would comply with California’s environmental laws as it seeks to bring wineries into compliance and other issues.

“The county needs to implement a process that builds consensus and does not create further division within our community,” said Cio Perez, as he read a letter signed by more than a dozen vineyard and winery owners, including Andy Beckstoffer, of Beckstoffer Vineyards, Randy Dunn, of Dunn Vineyards, Christian and Cherise Moueix, of Dominus Estate and Warren Winiarski, of Arcadia Vineyards.

Laurie Claudon, of Clark-Claudon Vineyards, who has lived in the Napa Valley since 1974, said new businesses budget for penalties as they are fully planning to break rules. “Their wealth is beyond, beyond, beyond,” she said. “It’s worth it to them to pay the penalties to get what they want.”

Mike Hackett, an Angwin resident who spearheaded Measure C, the proposal that would have restricted vineyard development on the hillside, had it passed this summer, called Tuesday’s resolution a “whitewash.”

The county will then say ‘OK, you’ve committed your sin, you’ve gone to confession — four “Our Father” three “Hail Marys” — and go ahead that’s your new use permit.’”

Winemaker/grower Harvest Duhig spoke in support of the resolution, saying the county is taking appropriate actions to get compliance.

“This process is a process of compromise,” Duhig said.

Supervisors were ready to vote, noting the resolution had been on the agenda four times this year.
David Morrison, director of Napa County Planning, Building and Environmental Services said the resolution follows CEQA – the California Environmental Quality Act. “It’s firm, fair and it’s comprehensive,” Morrison said of the resolution. Code Enforcement has 38 open cases involving wineries, Morrison said.  

Winery or other property owners who cannot understand their permits’ provisions can apply by March 29 for a “status determination” — a review and explanation of the existing entitlements. The deadline to apply for a use permit or modification permit will be extended if one or more violations are found.

Wineries and other property owners who miss the March 29 deadline must comply immediately within the limits set by their use permit. They cannot apply for a use permit for one year.

Tuesday’s resolution also directs staff to draft an ordinance that requires wineries to report their production levels every July1 – the number of gallons of wine produced as well as the number of gallons of fruit crushed and juiced over the past year.

Wineries outside the Agriculture Preserve and Agricultural Watershed zoning areas and those approved before the winery definition ordinance do not have to submit sourcing data and United States Department of Agriculture California Grape Crush Inquiry Reports, according to the resolution.

In addition, temporary even permits have to be submitted 90 days before the event – 30 days sooner than under the current rules.

Napa Valley Vintners recently issued a brief to explain the proposed rules which the Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday. The trade association recommended non-compliant members seek professional advice for “how best to proceed to file an application with the county” before the March 29 deadline.

Chairman Brad Wagenknecht was sick Tuesday and did not attend the meeting.

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