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San Joaquin County supervisors deny building permits for St. Jorge Winery

Supes order owners of St. Jorge Winery to tear down amphitheater

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Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 12:00 am

San Joaquin County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to deny several building permits for St. Jorge Winery in Acampo, forcing the owners to tear down an extravagant amphitheater.

“When you look at the number of violations and everything that St. Jorge has done wrong over the years, the county could not have made a different decision without setting absolutely the wrong public policy,” said attorney David Isola, who represented his parents, Judy and Romano Isola, who live next to the winery.

Tuesday’s hearing came before supervisors after the Isolas appealed a decision by the San Joaquin County Planning Commission to grant the winery several building permits, as well as increase the number of marketing events and attendees per year.

However, supervisors reversed the planning commission’s decision, largely based on findings that St. Jorge has been ignoring the terms of their existing county-enforced limitations, according to the Community Development Department.

While speaking to supervisors, David Isola also provided evidence that between 2009 and 2012, St. Jorge Winery held 61 marketing events instead of its permitted four, and 54 of them had exceeded its limit of 25 attendees per event.

“I have a huge challenge accepting someone saying, ‘We forgot to get the permits. We’re going to get them now,’” Supervisor Steve Bestolarides said during the hearing. “This is the most egregious example of pushing the envelope ...”

In a surprise development during the meeting, Chris Powell, an attorney representing St. Jorge Winery owners Vern and Jenise Vierra, asked supervisors to grant all building permits. In exchange, the winery would revoke its request for additional marketing events and attendees — a request that was already granted by the planning commission.

Powell said the winery would stick to its existing limit of four marketing events per year instead of 24, and 25 people per event instead of 150.

“St. Jorge made some mistakes,” Powell said. “They built some structures without proper permits. They had events that they were aggressive in the way they used their permit.”

Powell declined to comment following the decision.

Supervisors denied six building permits, including two permits for structures that have already been constructed.

As a result, St. Jorge will not be allowed to transform their wine bottle sanitation room into a kitchen, as requested. Also, the Community Development Department will require that the winery demolish an existing 5,652-square-foot amphitheater.

In Aug. 2012, the Community Development Department ordered the winery to stop work on the amphitheater because it didn’t have land use or building permits. The winery completed the structure this summer.

“The county did the right thing by protecting its existing laws,” David Isola said. “They have to stand up for what’s right, and that’s what they did.”

Tuesday’s decision resolves one part of a more than year-long feud between the Isolas and the winery.

The Isolas presented to supervisors signatures from 26 fellow neighbors upset over noise from unlicensed marketing events and droves of guests disrupting their county lifestyle.

However, there is still a pending lawsuit between the Isolas and the winery.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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