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San Joaquin County planning commissioners approve contested winery

Kapiniaris Vineyards project will go ahead despite protests from neighbors

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Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:47 am, Fri Nov 18, 2011.

San Joaquin County planning commissioners voted 3-1 on Thursday to allow Kapiniaris Vineyards to install a large winery during a 15-year period on Davis Road.

The vote came after nearly a dozen people — most of whom live in the Davis-Turner road area — spoke against constructing the winery. Some speakers said they moved to the country for peace and quiet, not farming operations or entertainment.

"We want a quiet, peaceful community," Davis road resident Mary Cromwell told commissioners. "These wineries want to bring big trucks and crush grapes."

Other opponents say they object to what they maintain is excessively loud music at neighboring wineries like Abundance and Jesse's Grove, both at Turner and Davis roads.

Vern Vierra, a consultant who is developing plans for the Kapiniaris winery project, said there will be a 10-foot-high sound wall on the property to deflect any music from the rural neighborhood.

One of the questions that frequently came up during the hearing that lasted almost 90 minutes was whether Kapiniaris' plans and those of nearby wineries are businesses with a primary goal to sell wine, or if it's an entertainment venue that happens to sell wine.

"Marketing events are necessary to promote the wine, promote the label," said landowner Frank Kapiniaris. "We're not out to hurt anyone. We don't intend to have parties."

Katie Patterson, program director for the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, who supports the project, acknowledged that farmers need to be good neighbors.

The Kapiniaris project calls for a production capacity of 150,000 gallons per year, 30 marketing events per year and up to 150 people per event. The project would be completed in four phases over a 15-year period.

Planning Commissioner Stan Morri and nearby vintner David Lucas said the county's winery ordinance should be revised to make sure that agricultural production takes priority over entertainment.

"You'll have to grandfather in the existing wineries, but we need to draw a line in the sand and develop a new ordinance," Lucas said.

Noting the Lodi Chamber of Commerce's support for the new winery, area resident Cathy Curlee Lynch said that entertainment events involving the wine industry should be held on places like School Street in Downtown Lodi rather than out in the country.'

"You're inviting urban sprawl," Lynch said.

The Kapiniaris family is looking at the Davis Road property as a location to move its existing winery at Lockeford's Vino Piazza, which has decayed after falling into bankruptcy. The Kapiniaris winery is one of only three remaining at Vino Piazza. There was once a dozen, Frank Kapiniaris said.

Morri and commissioners Richard Nickerson and chairman Peter Johnson voted for the project.

"It seems like indeed a winery, not a venue masquerading as a winery," Nickerson said.

Commissioner Miguel Villapudua cast the lone dissenting vote.

"It sounds to me that you can do it somewhere else," Villapudua told Kapiniaris.

Michael Devencenzi, a Woodbridge resident who represented the Lodi area, resigned from the Planning Commission about a month ago.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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