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San Joaquin County planners to weigh winery event moratorium

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Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 12:05 am | Updated: 5:48 am, Thu Jul 19, 2012.

San Joaquin County Planning Commissioners are considering new controls on winery events at tonight's meeting.

On the agenda is a planning amendment that, if approved by the commission, will prevent new wineries or wine cellars from hosting any marketing events until a new winery ordinance can be written and approved. That action must then wait until the county general plan can be updated.

Should the amendment pass, all wineries will still be permitted to host wine club events for their members and to offer wine tastings. Major events such as weddings or fundraisers to promote the wine would not be permitted at new wineries or cellars until and unless the winery ordinance is revised to allow them. Also, wineries would not be able to add to the number of events or guests they are currently allowed.

The item was on the agenda at a previous meeting, but it was tabled until today.

Opponents to the amendment say preventing new wineries from hosting these events will stifle the growth of wineries within the county, and wish to push the decision back even more.

Ryan Sherman, a real estate agent and part owner of Fields Family Wines, has helped create a Winery Ordinance Task Force to give county officials alternatives to a moratorium on events.

"It's our belief that a moratorium is bad policy. There's no reason for it. It's not the way to solve the problem," said Sherman. "We're hoping to give them a sub working document that will allow them to make another choice."

A coalition consisting of members from Visit Lodi!, the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, the Lodi District Grape Growers Association and the Lodi Chamber of Commerce is in the process of drafting an alternative to an event ban that offers more flexibility.

The group filed a request with the county for a 90-day continuation on the amendment to allow more people to find a compromise and allow time to iron out this new document.

"This is an incredibly important issue and many have expressed the desire and opportunity to participate in the formation of solutions in a thoughtful, measured way," wrote Katie Patterson, Farm Bureau program director, in the request.

The planning commission will address the request tonight.

County staff recommend approving the amendment and sending it to the next step with the Board of Supervisors.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Public Health/Planning Auditorium at the San Joaquin County Department of Public Health Services, located at 1601 E. Hazleton Ave. in Stockton.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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