While the owners of St. Jorge Winery hope to peacefully coexist with their rural neighbors in western Acampo, the neighbors don’t trust winery owners Vern and Jenise Vierra.
Judy and Romano Isola, who live on Taddei Road, say they have lost the peace and quiet of their rural neighborhood as St. Jorge owners Vernon and Jenise Vierra have expanded their winery without a permit from San Joaquin County.
“It’s very unsettling, and we are very concerned about future behavior,” said Paul Hagen, an attorney for Isolas, who have sued St. Jorge for what they claim to be unfair business practices.
Stockton land-use attorney Mike Hakeem, representing the Vierras, admitted that his clients were guilty of building without a permit.
“It is clear they have made some significant mistakes,” Hakeem told the county Planning Commission in September, while apologizing to the commission and planning staff members.
The Vierras stopped expanding. They are waiting for an opportunity to work things out with the Isolas and other neighbors, Hakeem said last week and again on Wednesday.
The Planning Commission voted 3-2 to approve improvements the Vierras had already made, along with additional expansion plans. The Isolas appealed the Planning Commission’s plans to the county Board of Supervisors, but Hakeem made an 11th-hour move and withdrew the St. Jorge application just as the Board of Supervisors were going to hear the appeal on Nov. 6.
Hakeem told the News-Sentinel and the Board of Supervisors last week that he and the Vierras want to come up with a resolution to make everyone happy — the Vierras, the Isolas and other neighbors — before submitting a revised project to the county.
“Why is that so necessary that he had to withdraw the application in order to do it?” Hagen asked on behalf of the Isolas, who live on North Bender Road near Taddei Road.
Hakeem offered no comment on Hagen’s comments Wednesday afternoon, because the lawsuit is pending.
The winery and Isola property are located north of the Mokelumne River and west of Lower Sacramento Road.
Plans called for the 14.47-acre St. Jorge Winery to have 24 marketing events accommodating 150 people per year. St. Jorge is allowed only four events per year with a maximum of 25 guests per event.
County planner Mo Hatef reported at the September Planning Commission meeting that the county had begun enforcement action against St. Jorge because the Vierras had begun construction of an amphitheater and commercial kitchen without a permit from the county.
In addition, the winery held events with more than the 25 guests permitted by county planners, according to Hatef’s staff report.
However, Hagen and Judy Isola say that that the Vierras continued to conduct events during the summer without a permit, even after being notified by the county that they expanded without county approval. Hakeem declined to speak on the record about the lawsuit, hoping to work things out privately with the Isolas.
“We are asking for injunction asking the Vierras to obey the law because county has failed to do that,” Hagen said.
However, the Isolas aren’t requesting any money in the lawsuit. All they want is for St. Jorge to stop what it’s doing, Hagen added.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.