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County Supervisors delay decision on new winery ordinance

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors heard from dozens of people Tuesday afternoon involved in the local wine industry all of whom spoke up against a proposed new county ordinance governing local wineries, winemaking, tasting rooms and special events held on vineyard property.

The proposed winery ordinance would more clearly define permitted activities at vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms with a priority emphasis on agriculture and the growing of grapes.

Everything else would be considered on a tiered system based on the size and location of wineries in the county that would also include restrictions on tasting rooms, tasting room occupancies, special events like weddings and charity fundraisers, on-site food production and wine sales as well as television and film production.

The new ordinance has been drafted over the past several years based on various impacts and public complaints including air quality, traffic and noise in addition to winery operations and land use outside of agricultural zoning regulations.

Supervisors heard impassioned pleas to either throw the proposed new ordinance out or allow for more tweaking of the document, saying its draconian and threatens the livelihoods of people in the in the local industry

“The new ordinance will push the little guy out and create a “big guy” corporate culture, exactly what you don’t want, what we don’t want, in Santa Barbara County”, said Shelby Sim of the Santa Ynez Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“The primary use of my property is to make a living”, winemaker and wine grape grower Brian Babcock told the Board, “I am a farmer, if I can’t sell my product, I’m done.”

“It’s a tough business”, said local wine grape grower and celebrity chef Frank Ostini, “grapes won’t be grown unless you can make them into wine, wine won’t be made unless you can sell it.”

“We’re shaken to the core, we’re scared basically”, another small winemaker told the Board, “we don’t want to do it, we can’t afford it, we can’t afford to have these sort of restrictions put on our property.”

No one came forward to speak on behalf of the proposed ordinance during the nearly three hours of public comment.

The Supervisors unanimously agreed to table a vote on the proposed new winery ordinance in order to allow for more public input.

It will come back before the Board of Supervisors on November 22.

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