The long process of revising Santa Barbara County’s winery ordinance will continue with a public meeting from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, 555 McMurray Road in Buellton.
The topic to be discussed this week is food service, based on these questions:
• Why is food service important to a winery?
• What level of food service is appropriate for rural lands?
• How can the need for food service be balanced with maintenance of agriculture, those lands’ primary purpose?
The session is the second in a series of five topic-based meetings that began Nov. 27 and are scheduled to end Feb. 21. A public meeting in August, also at the Marriott, helped set the agenda for the series of more focused discussions.
Eventually, the county Planning and Development Department will make a recommendation and the issues will be decided by the Board of Supervisors.
Planning staff members are hosting the meetings to gather public comment about controversial issues that have pitted some people in the local wine industry against neighbors of various wineries who complain about noise and traffic created by “special” or “winery” events.
Those opponents, many of them in the Santa Ynez Valley, have said grape-growing and even wine-making are perfectly suitable activities at rural vineyards, but they protest that tasting rooms, parties, weddings and other special events are an unsuitable commercial use on the agriculturally zoned land.
For their part, vintners have said that selling wine on-site through their own tasting rooms is important to the profitability of their businesses, and they want the right to host at least a limited number of special events each year, also to support their businesses.
In addition, vintners have enlisted representatives of many nonprofit groups to urge county decision-makers to allow wineries to host benefit events for them at the scenic, rural vineyards.
People who are interested in the ordinance revision can participate in three ways, according to the county — comment in person at a meeting, fill out a comment card at the meeting, or send comments by email. Attendance at a meeting isn’t necessary.
Meeting agendas and materials are posted on the Planning and Development Department website one week before each meeting, and a reminder email will be sent to all people on the winery ordinance update email list, according to county officials.
To join that list or get more information, people can contact planning staff member Stephanie Stark at email@example.com or 568-2048.
The remaining schedule of meetings, with their specific topics, is:
• Today: Food service, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, 555 McMurray Road.
• Jan. 10: Special events, 1 to 3 p.m., Public Works Conference Room, 620 W. Foster Road, Santa Maria.
• Feb. 11: Neighborhood compatibility, 6 to 8 p.m., Stacy Hall, St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Church, 2901 Nojoqui Ave., Los Olivos
• Feb. 21: Winery ordinance structure, as well as permitting, monitoring and enforcement processes.
Information about the ordinance, including hand-outs for the meeting series, can be found at http://longrange.sbcountyplanning.org by clicking first on “Special Projects” and then on “Winery Ordinance.”