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San Joaquin County Planning Commission approves winery expansion

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Posted: Friday, February 22, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 1:39 pm, Tue Feb 26, 2013.

Despite some strongly worded protests by three neighbors, Oak Farm Vineyards got the green light to expand its winery on a private portion of DeVries Road.

The San Joaquin County Planning Commission voted 4-1 Thursday night to allow Oak Farm Vineyards to expand its use. Commissioner Larry Hamilton, who represents the Lodi area on the Planning Commission, cast the lone dissenting vote.

Commissioners approved the project despite protests from neighbors who live in the DeVries-Peltier road area.

"I moved out there for peace and quiet," 28-year area resident Tom Newhall told the commission. "This winery is 500 feet from my bedroom window."

Newhall and his neighbors complained about traffic and amplified music from Oak Farm Vineyards, located off a private road extension of DeVries Road, a half-mile north of Peltier Road.

Newhall also complained about the traffic generated by Lodi's Wine & Chocolate Weekend two weeks ago. Oak Farm was one of the participating wineries in the festival.

"This is an event center, not a winery," said Ken Kramer, who lives at the corner of Peltier and DeVries roads.

"We are a winery first, not an events center," attorney Mike Hakeem, representing Oak Farm Vineyards, told commissioners.

DeVries Road resident Jeanette Felkins said, "It's not the neighborhood it used to be."

The vineyards are run by Dan Panella, who purchased Vine & Branches Christian Bookstore in early 2009 from Phil and Bonnie Biddle, but sold it back to the Biddles last year. Panella and his wife, Dayna, sold the store because Oak Farm Vineyards was becoming more successful, Dan Panella said after Thursday's Planning Commission meeting.

Hakeem said the Panellas host weddings, birthday parties and corporate events on the property. A commercial kitchen is planned for caterers to use for cooking when a special event is held.

The Panellas live on the site, so they will know if music becomes too loud, Hakeem added.

The Panellas made two concessions, one to their neighbors and one to the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation. The Farm Bureau opposed the project as an events center, but supported it as a location to produce wine.

Oak Farm initially requested that they be allowed to have 35 marketing events per year, but decided to limit itself to 16 events due to neighbors' protests. The 16-event limit was approved by the Planning Commission in 2008.

The Panellas also spent more than $300,000 on the 19th-century barn for a seismic improvements, a sprinkler system, a concrete floor and improvements required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to winery director Mike Shinn.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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