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San Joaquin County supervisors back Farm Bureau, deny Viaggio Winery expansion

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Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 5:44 pm | Updated: 6:30 am, Wed Feb 13, 2013.

An angry Larry Lawrence pledged on Tuesday to violate regulations and construct a large agricultural store on his Viaggio Winery property on the Mokelumne River northwest of Lodi.

Lawrence, who bought the Viaggio property about a year ago, was seething after the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to deny permission for Lawrence to expand Viaggio with a store and delicatessen at the southwest corner of Taddei and Bender roads.

“I’m probably going to do whatever the hell I want and ask for forgiveness,” Lawrence said outside the board chambers after today’s public hearing. “The right way ain’t going to work.”

Lawrence said owners of a neighboring winery expanded without a county permit, but later apologized and received approval.

He said he may take a similar course.

In denying Viaggio, the Board of Supervisors backed arguments by the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation that the store and deli would represent a commercial operation rather than an actual farm.

Bruce Blodgett, the Farm Bureau’s executive director, described the permit sought by Viaggio as “discretionary,” which allows the Board of Supervisors to decide whether the deli and ag store are in a good location.

Farm Bureau officials don’t think it’s a good location. Blodgett said he has no problem with a fruit stand being located there.

Attorney Steve Herum, representing Lawrence, argued that supervisors should support the expansion because his client has played by the county’s rules.

“I’m going to cancel my Farm Bureau membership,” Lawrence said after the hearing. “They’re not my friend. Why don’t they worry about labor issues (affecting farmers) instead of me serving a sandwich?”

Board chairman Ken Vogel and Supervisors Larry Ruhstaller and Steve Bestolarides voted to deny the Viaggio expansion. Supervisors Carlos Villapudua and Bob Elliott supported Viaggio’s plans.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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  • Larry Lawrence posted at 11:01 am on Wed, Feb 20, 2013.

    Larry Posts: 1

    I wish to clarify my alleged statements in Mr. Ross Farrow's column of February 12, 2013. I did NOT pledge to violate regulations, and I do NOT intend to construct anything, including an ag store with a deli, against county regulations and approval. These are the words of the writer, not mine.

    Because of Supervisor Ruhstaller's comment that "we may not follow the rules" I stated to Mr. Farrow that "I probably SHOULD just do whatever the hell I want and ask for forgiveness". I was being sarcastic; that is NOT the way I operate. It was in reference to the previous owner not following the rules, NOT of a neighboring winery expanding without a county permit, as Mr. Farrow stated. I would never say anything about my fellow wineries or my neighbors.

  • Josh Morgan posted at 1:57 pm on Wed, Feb 13, 2013.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 529

    Doug, I thought you needed to stay away from these events.

  • Art Tanner posted at 10:39 am on Wed, Feb 13, 2013.

    Art Tanner Posts: 2

    I have to agree with Mr. Lawrence. What in the world is Farm Bureau doing sticking its nose into this sort of issue. I have never heard of Farm Bureau getting involved in anything like this. Tell them goodbye, Mr. Lawrence and get as many of your contacts to do the same.

  • Doug Chaney posted at 7:51 am on Wed, Feb 13, 2013.

    advocate Posts: 499

    These Lodi/Stockton area wineries already have more than enough venues which do nothing but promote the use of the addictive drug alcohol and most have nothing to do with promoting their business, with most of those events being entertainment or fund raisers, many of which "donate" a paltry amount of money to these non profits and put the rest in their own pockets. And the fact that there's no regulation as to which patrons are too impaired to drive, many I know that can act straight but not even find the ignition with the key, and are allowed to get in their vehicles and drive our city and country roads, some still with drink in hand. Maybe the CHP should start staging checkpoints in these areas on these nights with the SJ county sheriff providing maximum saturation patrols on the same night to capture those who try to circumvent those checkpoints by taking other back roads who are too drunk/drugged to drive. Alcoholism is a terrible disease and these events seem to fuel the fever judging by the same faces that appear regularly at these events and their belligerent behaviors that most winery owners are afraid to chastise because this particular person is well connected or influential. Having poured many past large wine tastings in the Lodi/Stockton area, I can name at least a dozen of those personalities right off hand.

  • Doug Chaney posted at 7:49 am on Wed, Feb 13, 2013.

    advocate Posts: 499

    Mr. Thompson, you'd better hope we don't get what you wish for. Mr. Vogel has been a stellar supporter of the Lodi area and Delta and has done such a great job that no explanation is needed for his success but for the fact that he ran unopposed in the last election due to the fact that his service has been exemplary.

  • Brett Thompson posted at 7:34 am on Wed, Feb 13, 2013.

    Brett Thompson Posts: 53

    Way to go Larry! Those guys are absolute idiots. They always seem to be stifling growth, which is why this County is constantly struggling economically. I hope they all get voted out, especially Vogel.

  • Jerry Bransom posted at 9:30 pm on Tue, Feb 12, 2013.

    Jerry Bransom Posts: 363

    These guys approve GAMBLING on Cherokee Lane but a legitimate business... why have that? They are OK with MILLIONS being spent on those ridiculous bridges on Eight Mile but a legitimate business.. well that is what "they" consider ridiculous. You people will be looking for a new job next election if not sooner.

  • John Kindseth posted at 8:14 pm on Tue, Feb 12, 2013.

    John Kindseth Posts: 228

    Sad when the bureaucrats, the proper owner of the land, and the public cannot come up with a solution.



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