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Local vintners concerned about possible ban on winery events

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Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 9:29 am, Sat May 19, 2012.

Should wineries in San Joaquin County be limited to manufacturing and selling wine, or should parties, nonprofit fundraisers, wedding receptions and live music be permitted?

That question will be posed to the San Joaquin County Planning Commission, with a tentative public hearing date set for June 7. If commissioners vote against changing the ordinance, their vote can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision.

If a winery doesn’t already have permission to hold marketing events, it won’t be able to in the future if the county wine ordinance is amended. Wineries that already have a permit would be able to have parties and other events, but they wouldn’t be able to expand their marketing activities, said county planner Mo Hatef.

The issue has created a firestorm of reaction in the Lodi area. The county has received 70 to 80 form letters opposing a change to the ordinance, Hatef said.

Opponents say that a moratorium on new marketing events would lower property values, restrict land use, lose jobs, decrease county revenue, lower prices for grapegrowers and decrease agri-tourism dollars.

Hatef and county Community Development Director Kerry Sullivan will meet with the public on Wednesday morning to explain the proposed changes.

Nancy Beckman, president and CEO of Visit Lodi!, said that Wednesday’s meeting will allow county officials “to really explain the nuances of the proposed moratorium and allow people to get detailed answers to questions that they have. A lot of people expressed interest in being there.”

If the county Planning Commission approves the moratorium, no new marketing events at wineries will be approved until the new county General Plan is adopted.

“A lot of concern is being expressed that moratorium would be in place until some time in the future when the General Plan gets passed,” Beckman said. “That’s an unspecified period of time.”

The use of wineries created a stir in late 2011 and earlier this year, when Kapiniaris Vineyards got county approval to construct a winery on Davis Road, just south of Turner Road. The county will allow up to 30 marketing events per year at Kapiniaris. Attendance will be limited to 150 people, and events must end by 10 p.m.

Neighboring property owners complained about the idea of loud music with amplifiers, traffic and trespassing onto adjacent land. The area already has Lucas Winery, Abundance Vineyards and Jessie’s Grove Winery.

The county will decide whether to limit wineries to producing and storing wine.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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