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San Joaquin County Planning Commission set to vote on winery events moratorium

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Posted: Saturday, November 16, 2013 12:00 am

The San Joaquin County Planning Commission will take the first step toward temporarily banning wineries from requesting permission to host more than their already allotted number of marketing events, during a meeting Thursday night.

San Joaquin County’s Board of Supervisors requested the 12-month moratorium to halt the drove of marketing event applications while officials devise a new countywide wine ordinance.

However, the idea is meeting resistance.

One supervisor calls it a needless distraction, and others believe it will only hurt Lodi’s wine industry.

“Wine tasters come to our area to taste at the newest wineries, and if they don’t have the opportunity to do that, I’m afraid those wine taster will go to other wine tasting rooms outside the region,” said Pat Patrick, president and CEO of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce.

If commissioners approve the moratorium Thursday night, supervisors will vote whether to adopt the measure during a meeting in the coming weeks.

The measure, designed by the Community Development Department, will allow existing or proposed wineries to continue holding their approved number of marketing events, in addition to wine club activities, industry-wide marketing activities and the ability to request four special events annually.

Wineries would only be prohibited from asking the county to grant additional marketing events and attendees per event for the next 12 months.

Supervisor Steve Bestolarides, who proposed the idea in September, said it would help the Community Development Department focus on developing a new winery ordinance, which will hopefully be completed with the county’s general plan in the middle of next year.

“We need to do this comprehensively and in a way that empowers staff to not be processing new applications as the politics we need to do to get the (ordinance) that we really want,” Bestolarides said during the September meeting, when supervisors voted 3-1 to begin drafting a moratorium.

With Supervisor Bob Elliott absent from the meeting, Chairman Ken Vogel was the only board member to oppose the idea, and he says he’s still opposed to it.

“We’re getting close to revising the winery ordinance,” he said, adding that he believes a moratorium would only distract county staff from that task.

Patrick objects for other reasons.

In addition to his concerns over the effect it would have on wine sales, Patrick believes the moratorium is unnecessary because the Community Development Department has the ability to juggle drafting the winery ordinance with weighing any incoming applications.

He said roughly five applications have been submitted in the last 14 months.

“Five in 14 months doesn’t seem to be overly burdensome,” he said.

A public hearing will be held during Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. Planning Commission meeting at the Public Health and Planning Auditorium, 1601 E. Hazelton Ave., Stockton.

Planning Commission Chairman Miguel Villapudua is unsure how Thursday’s vote will unfold.

“I like business to succeed and I like the idea of expansion. I like tourism. I want see them grow,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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