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 firstname.lastname@example.org.