Update: At the Council Work session on 9/18 despite strong concerns and remaining questions communicated by several council members including Roger Berliner, Nancy Navarro, and Sydney Katz, The council did not agree to defer passage of this zoning change until the taxpayer funded agri-tourism study is complete in early 2019. They opted instead to press forward with some possibility of amendments. Stay tuned. There is still time to weigh in and please do. For those who have written in, many thanks and you may want to respond to the email that you received from Councilmember Riemer. We've seen some good responses with thoughtful remaining questions and concerns. Scroll down for the original action alert.
1. Where will these facilities with very little regulation be allowed?
Anywhere in color in the map below - more than 1/3rd of the County on as little as 5 acres.
- Production of Wine, Cider and Beer can be value added farm products as is the case with a number of current successful operations where the alcohol is an accessory to on site farming. Yet, the proposed ZTA does not even stipulate that a significant amount of the alcohol ingredients have to be grown close by, allowing them to be acquired anywhere at all if "economically competitive". Put simply: One does not save farming by not farming.
- As introduced, the ZTA has few provisions for limiting number and size of events such as weddings and festivals. Each facility may have unlimited rental wedding type events for over 200 guests and 9 major events annually with no attendance limit. We've heard from one facility planning a tasting room with space for 400.
- These two provisions pave the way for a unplanned type of use in the Ag Reserve - an alcohol production facility largely outsourcing ingredients and hold non-agriculturaly related commercial large scale events. The result: clogged and unsafe rural roads, conflict with use and enjoyment of other rural businesses and communities, and ever higher rural land cost, effectively barring food and fiber producers from establishing business on the very acreage designed for that use. The mismatch between this ZTA and the Master Plan that set aside the Reserve has us looking into the legality of passing this provision.
- Bottom Line: Any new use allowed in the Ag Reserve and rural zones, must be tethered directly to on site agriculture (as in winerys which the state requires to grow 51% of their inputs on the farm), and properly scaled to maintain balance, safety and environmental health.