Below is a sampling of letters received by San Joaquin County staff both in support of and opposing a proposed winery ordinance amendment that would place a moratorium on new winery events.
Letter from Katie Patterson
Dear Ms. Hatef: The San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation (Farm Bureau) represents over 4,000 agricultural and rural members throughout San Joaquin County. As the leading nonprofit voice for agriculture, we thank you for the opportunity to weigh in on the County’s proposed temporary Development Title Text Amendment to prohibit marketing events for newly proposed wineries or offsite cellars, and any revision to previously approved marketing events for existing wineries.
The Farm Bureau recognizes the unique role the Winery Ordinance (Ordinance) plays in enhancing the promotion of agricultural products in San Joaquin County. However, over the last decade, the Ordinance has been put to the test. With growth to the wine industry in San Joaquin County, has come the demand for more events hosted on working agricultural landscapes. Over the past three years, Farm Bureau has been concerned with the trend of some wineries attempting to gain permits under the façade of a winery but truly operating as event centers. Further, the number of noise complaints and neighboring issues appear to have increased with these types of applications. Farm Bureau has also received complaints over existing agricultural operations regarding their inability to farm next to these "event centers" while the venue is having a party. We believe the basic building blocks exist in the current Ordinance, but that some slight modifications should be considered to ensure the Ordinance can adapt over the next decade. With ali things balance must occur. As a priority, any Ordinance revision must integrate a "winery first” approach, as well as focus on the theme of being a good neighbor.
The Farm Bureau supports the temporary moratorium on marketing events for new wineries and off-site cellars, including revisions to current marketing plans and understands the position taken by the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to bring this text amendment forward. However, we also recognize that much work has been done by Farm Bureau on this issue and we would urge the County to review the initial proposal by the Farm Bureau in an effort to discuss and address this ongoing issue.
By way of background, these documents were developed through many volunteer hours to ensure that a comprehensive discussion and the most pressing issues facing the existing ordinance could be vetted. Farm Bureau coordinated with growers and wineries of all sizes in the winter of 2010, and conducted meetings over the course of 6 months into June 2011. This group was diverse in make up as well as in opinion. By no means was this a cut and dry effort. lt took many hours to understand the changing needs of the wineries. In the end, Farm Bureau believes we have a document that supports a winery first approach and supports the needs of wineries to conduct important normal activities like wine club events.
This text amendment will allow a brief window of time for interested parties to work together cohesively to update the existing Ordinance and to promote a community supported alternative for the Development Title Update over the next 6-12 months. We believe many of those features exist in the work that Farm Bureau has conducted. We have shared this document with various interests including the County Board of Supervisors. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with our work that is attached. Without leadership, Farm Bureau recognizes this issue will continue to resurface at the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors until it can be properly addressed. We thank you for the opportunity to comment. Please contact me with any actions or questions regarding this application.
Program Director, San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation
Letter from David Dart
I am in favor of the proposed Development Title Text Amendment until the new
County plan is created which I hope has better defined definitions of marketing events.
My concern is people starting a winery as a way to create an event center, as we have seen happen. What increases the reputation and value of a wine region is the quality of wine and wine grapes being produced. Iam afraid people wanting to create an event centerat the sake of quality wines ceuld jeopardize this.
Thank you for your consideration.
Letter from the Isolas
Please accept this letter in support of the proposed San Joaquin County ordinance against new winery/winery events in Lodi/ San Joaquin County. I write this letter as a homeowner and San Joaquin County resident whose life has been upended by the addition of a “winery” next door to their home (Not acres and acres of land away, but literally, next door). Something has to be done to put regulations on the entertainment venue/aspects of these outcropping of wineries. I am in no Way opposed to all Wineries and think that they are a wonderful addition to the Lodi lifestyle. My objection is to the “wineries” that are nothing more than event centers. It is crucial to neighboring homeowners that these Wineries are looked at by the County on a case-by case basis and vetted for the purpose they are being built and operated.
I hope my and my husband’s experience will help give thought and weight to the
County’s decision on the proposed ordinance. What has happened in the approving of the winery next door to our home is textbook as to what is happening to many residents in our community All of Whom are looking to you for your help, intervention, and regulation.
My husband and I moved to Acámpo in 1999. We moved here from the Bay Area to enjoy the rural, country life and to be closer to our son, his wife, and our grandchildren. In 2008, we received notice from San J oaquin County that permits had been requested. to build a winery, St. Jorge, next door to our home. This did not sit Well with us as We live on a narrow, quiet street, live in an area where there are numerous residences in a two block area, and there was a school bus stop in front ofthe proposed Winery. We opposed the building of the winery, and submitted a petition signed by a majority of the neighbors. However, and unexplained to us, We lost the petition with the County, and the appeal process was summarily denied.
Construction on St. Jorge Winery soon commenced, and little made sense: The permit called for a caretal
As events began to be held at the Winery, the small parking lot was inadequate, and parking soon became a problem. People parked in front of and on our property, stirring up dust that interfered with our grapes. Further, our privacy and quiet lifestyle was invaded. We built two separate fences to try and put some separation and noise barriers between St Jorge and our home. Again, this winery is next door to our home, not some remote property with acres of land Where no one else is affected.
Soon the Friday and Saturday night parties at St. Jorge arrived - Events, Weddings, reunions, that included live music or DJ led music. The music would play until 10:00 - 10:30, and for all intents and purposes, it is in our backyard. Our Windows shake, a conversation indoors cannot be held without elevated voice, and if held outside, sign language is needed. No sound Wall was ever built between the two properties, although I have been told by a County employee that not having the County order a wall was “highly unusual”.
As frustrating as this experience has all been, about four months ago, We began to notice equipment and digging next door to our home. At first, We didn’t believe the rumors: An amphitheater with a stage, holding more than 300 people was being built on the winery for concert venues. How could this be? We had never received any notice from the County. How could an amphitheater be built Without permits? How could this possibly be allowed in a residential neighborhood? Where were the event attendees suppose to park? What would this do to traffic in the area? What was the security plan for the neighborhood and the concert goers? Apparently, none of these questions or answers mattered or matter now. St. Jorge has scheduled a Summer Concert Series that has been advertised in local papers, magazines and the Internet. This series, as advertised, was to be held in the new amphitheater. This concert also comes with dinner (again, the use of the unpermitted commercial kitchen). The first concert is to be held on the evening of May 18, 2012.
On Saturday, May 12, 2012, we received a notice from the County regarding a Site Approval application (Application Number: PA-1200063) to expand “a small existing winery”. “The expansion includes the construction of a 5,652 wine garden, a 300 square foot commercial kitchen, a 1,600 square foot storage building, a 336 square foot Wine storage building, a 288 square foot covered patio, and a 420 square foot restroom facility. Phase Two includes the construction of a 1,200 case storage building.” This “wine garden” (also known as the amphitheater-) has already been built, WITHOUT PERMITS OR COUNTY APPOVAL, as has the commercial kitchen and some of the out buildings. The plans show that the public restrooms are immediately adjacent to my property line. If the County approves this permit application, it has rendered significant diminished property value to all the surrounding property owners’ homes and will end life in our neighborhood as we know it.
In conclusion, St Jorge “Winery” has made a mockery of legitimate Wineries in our area, has made a mockery ofthe County’s permits and ordinances, and is nothing but an entertainment center in a residential/ agricultural neighborhood. Our area wineries should be showcasing our local wines and ediication the puhlic about wine and winemaking. Again, we have no objection to the occasional wine based event, but what is going on at St. Jorge highlights none of the aspects of winemaking.
What is going to be done about this? I implore someone with decision-making capacity on this ordinance to please come out and take a look at what is happening in my neighborhood. The question remains, Why is one person’s business more important than the rights of neighboring home owners?
Judy and Romano Isola
Letter from the Lodi District Grape Growers Association
Dear Ms. Sullivan: The Lodi District Grape Growers Association represents winegrape growers and associated businesses in California Cruch District 11, including most of San Joaquin County. Our members are proud of the growth and prosperity of the winegrape industry in San Joaquin County in recent years. This success has allowed our region to enjoy significant economic benefits during a time of otherwise dire financial conditions in many other industries. We attribute a good portion of this success to the entrepreneurial spirit of our local wineries (most of which have been started by local winegrape growers) who have literally put Lodi on the map as a premium wine tasting and event locale.
Thus you can imagine our surprise to see the proposed moratorium on marketing events for new wineries or wineries desiring to expand. We understand the moratorium resulted from the County's frustration with regulating the land use impacts, and related community complaints, from a handful of wineries in the County. While we sympathize with this frustration, and whole-heartedly agree that these impacts need to be adequately addressed, we also strongly oppose the use of a moratorium to do so.
A moratorium will have excessive adverse impacts on our industry and the economy of our region. For every "problem" winery that the County has dealt with, there are a dozen more that are playing by the rules, creating jobs, generating tax revenue, increasing tourism and improving the overall image of our County. A moratorium, even if in place for only a few years, will stifle these benefits and discourage winery development at a time when our County simply cannot afford another economic hit.
LDGGA urges the County to reconsider its approach and choose a solution tailored to the problem at hand. Our organization stands ready and willing to assist the County in any way that we can do address this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact our executive Director, Amy Blagg, at (209) 339-8246 in this regard.
Edward Van Diemen
Lodi District Grape Growers Association
Letter from Wright Insurance
Dear Ms. Hatef: I am sure you have received numerous letters echoing the same sentiment and opposing the potential proposed moratorium on winery "market events." I am also of the same opinion that this is an unnecessary and aggressive position which could stifle the great steps our region has made to become a tourist destination.
I work directly with many of the wineries in this area as their insurance broker. While we assist some of the larger wineries that will not be as adversely affected by the moratorium; we also work with many newer/small wineries that depend on the ability to have "marketing events" as a way to get their name our and make additional revenue. These wineries are not "event centers." I have first hand knowledge of wineries that have recently purchased land with the intent to add a tasting room facility NOT and event center. I insure others that started small are now looking to grow. Consider if you just invested multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars with honorable intentions of growing your business and now being told you have to put your plans on hold for 18-30 months AFTER you spent the money.
This is completely unfair to the new/smaller wineries that are still finding their way.
I won't get into the tax ramifications of stifling the growth of the wine community; I am sure that has been hit on by many. But the loss of tax revenue affects the amount of money that goes into law enforcement. With inmates getting released for so-called "over-crowding" the need for more law enforcement is greater than ever. Lower tax revenue will harm this community in multiple ways.
I am completely in favor of a refining of the winery ordinance to protect the winery neighbors. A moratorium is not the answer. ENFORCEMENT of the existing permits or lack there of is the answer. Don't penalize the many that operate within the rules, penalize those who don't.
Thank you for your consideration.
Letter from Steven J. Reeves
Dear Ms. Sullivan: I hope you are doing well. Laura and I miss the times we had together with you and Garry.
The purpose of my letter is to speak out AGAINST the proposed changes being considered to the Winery Ordinance for San Joaquin County. As a businessman and business leader in the Lodi area, I feel the proposed changes will harm business in the County at a time we CANNOT afford to do so.
While many businesses in our region struggle to make ends meet and stay in business, the winegrape and winery industry has been a bright spot. This industry has helped our region stay vibrant and effective during these tough economic times. To do anything to reduce their ability to market or promote their businesses at this time does not make good economic sense, especially if it is response to a select vocal few.
Please pass this letter on to the Planning Commission on my behalf, so they are aware that I am AGAINST such a change at this time.
Steven J. Reeves
Letter from Annalisa Sharp Babich
Dear Ms. Sullivan: The following comments regarding the above-referenced matter are respectfully submitted to the San Joaquin County Planning Commission on behalf of myself, Annalisa Sharp Babich. I am a mother, voter, Lodi Arts Commissioner, taxpayer and Lodi Amateur Vintner Association member, which is an organization comprised of over 200 amateur winemakers, vineyardists, farmers, and other individuals that meet on a monthly basis to learn about the art and science of winemaking. Many successful local wineries and winemakers got their start through LAVA membership, and like myself, am one of the members that is currently in various stages of opening wineries of their own. Continued success of Lodi's wine industry and the economic benefits it confers to the community at large is dependent on growth, meaning the cultivation and success of new wineries and related businesses. Any legislation that goes beyond the responsible regulation of that growth, and which halts it entirely by prohibiting a vital means to promote new businesses, will have far-reaching economic implications for the region.
I oppose the proposed amendments to the County's Development Title, Sections 9-110.4 and 9-115.590, and the addition of Section 9-1075. As a winemakers, future winery owner, grape growers, and wine enthusiasts, I understand that there are issues associated with wineries and winery-hosted events. However, these matters can be more appropriately addressed through the winery marketing plan & permit approval process, as determined on a case-by-case basis through the County Planning Department, until such time the County's Development Title can be revised as a whole.
As presented, the proposed text amendment would prohibit all future "marketing events" for new applicants, an action which would essentially hamstring new wineries (or existing wineries that have not yet applied to hold marketing events) from promoting their product on-site. The current approach is overbroad. It will have a disparate impact on new wineries and will discourage the start-up of future wineries, yet would maintain the "status quo" for the existing wineries that are the source of the County's concerns. This does nothing to solve existing problems associated with marketing events, and would improperly restrain new wineries from conducting business on a playing field even with those that would be "grandfathered in" under the amendment.
I understand that the Planning Department staff has been directed to submit language for a text amendment for consideration by the Board of Supervisors. I urge the Planning Department to reject the current proposed language and direct Department staff to draft language that is narrowly tailored to target the specific problems the County wishes to curtail. For example, language creating additional, clearly defined "marketing event" classifications (and/or exemptions) within the Ordinance and a fair and balanced means of allocating the number of such events to wineries on an annual basis, as opposed to an outright moratorium.
Should the Planning Commission find it beneficial, I am willing and able to assist Department staff with developing language that would meet the objectives described above.
Annalisa Sharp Babich
Letter from Kevin Baysinger, Lodi Amateur Vintners Association
Dear Ms. Hatef: The following comments regarding the above-referenced matter are respectfully submitted to the San Joaquin County Planning Commission on behalf of the Lodi Amateur Vintners' Association ("LAVA"). LAVA is an organization comprised of over 150 amateur winemakers, vineyardists, farmers, and other individuals that meet on a monthly basis to learn about the art and science of winemaking.
Many successful local wineries and winemakers were trained through LAVA membership, and a number of our current members are in various stages of opening wineries of their own. Continued success of Lodi's wine industry and the economic benefits it confers to the community at large is dependent on growth, meaning the cultivation and success of new wineries and related businesses. Any legislation that goes beyond the responsible regulation of that growth, and which halts it entirely by prohibiting a vital means to promote new businesses, will have far-reaching economic implications for the region.
LAVA strongly opposes the proposed amendments to the County's Development Title, Sections 9-110.4 and 9-115.590, and the addition of Section 9-1075. As winemakers, winery owners, grape growers, and wine enthusiasts, we understand that there are issues associated with wineries and winery-hosted events. However, these matters can be more appropriately addressed through the existing winery marketing plan & permit approval process, as determined on a case-by-case basis through the County Planning Department, until such time as the County's Development Title can be revised as a whole.
As presented, the proposed text amendment would prohibit all future "marketing events" for new applicants, an action which would essentially hamstring new wineries (or existing wineries that have not yet applied to hold marketing events) from promoting their product on-site. The current approach is overboard. It will have a disparate impact on new wineries and will discourage the start-up of future wineries, yet would maintain the "status quo" for the existing wineries that are the source of the County's concerns. The added moratorium text does nothing to solve existing problems associated with marketing events, and would improperly restrain new wineries from conducting business on a playing field even with those that would be "grandfathered in" under the amendment. In addition, we feel that the enforcement of existing policy is a better approach than creating more policy — which may tend to reduce much-needed growth, business, and tax dollars in an already difficult economy.
We understand that the Planning Department staff has been directed to submit language for a text amendment for consideration by the Board of Supervisors. On behalf of its members, LAVA urges the Planning Department to reject the current proposed language and direct Department staff to draft language which is narrowly tailored to target the specific problems that the County wishes to curtail. For example, language creating additional, clearly defined "marketing event" classifications (and/or exemptions) within the Ordinance and a fair and balanced means of allocating the number of such events to wineries on an annual basis, as opposed to an outright moratorium.
Should the Planning Commission find it beneficial, LAVA is willing and able to assist Department staff with developing language that would meet these objectives.
President, Lodi Amateur Vintners' Association
Letter from Russ Munson, Wine & Roses
Dear Ms. Sullivan: In reference to the Ordinance above, I want to express my opposition to the proposed moratorium to be discussed at the June 7th Planning Commission Meeting. I believe I have a thorough understanding of the Ordinance currently in place and to postpone its usage is uncalled for. The County's concern that it needs to relook at the ordinance is fine, but to stop development in process or the future planning of wineries and tasting rooms puts an undue burden on those developing new projects.
It appears the concern of the Supervisors stems from several complaints and a current hearing on a winery development project on Davis Road, bringing neighbors to the forefront with concerns. In addition, Supervisors are concerned about what might happen in the future, if a great number of wineries are developed due to traffic and noise impacts. These are issues that can be controlled if the County utilizes it powers currently in place "Reversion" to regulate a winery's activities in accordance with the current Ordinance. As the number of wineries continue to grow, applications for site plans need to be looked at on a site by site bases to evaluate their impact. In accordance with the current Ordinance or future Ordinance, the threat of Reversion is the County's ability to control the actions of wineries not being good neighbors or creating undue impacts.
As the owner and Managing Member of Wine & Roses, a true event facility operating within the City limits, with potentially greater impacts to neighbors than many of the wineries, we have had almost no complaints on operations from the time we started development. Our operation happen daily and extent to 2:00 pm with amplified music on many occasions. In our case, similar to what the County is now experiencing, the City came to us in 1998, when residential development was planned for expansion near and around our property. For years we had outside weddings and amplified music into the late hours, and like the County's position now, the City met with us to discuss the future impact of residential development and what would be required to minimize our impact if we wanted to continue with outside events. Had the City put a moratorium on our events and development until such time as they figured it out, Wine & Roses would probably not be here today. But no, we worked with the City to mitigate our impact with our design for expansion and here we are today, operating with over 350 events a year with no complaints! So it can be done if you want to be a good neighbor or you want to stay in business.
As it relates to the County, the City has no enforcement in place to monitor our operations, but if we were to overstep our use permit, we would have to answer for it. Again, the County has the same control if it wants to use it.
From another point of view, the hotel industry suffered greatly in 2008 and the years to follow. We are now just returning to the revenues earned prior to and hopefully will continue to grow in the years to come. The wine industry is a significant driver of revenue and will remain so for the hotels and our community. We cannot afford to be stalled for the next two years or more while the County takes the time to review the Ordinance. If the County is concerned about the lack of control of the Ordinance now, what control does it perceive it will have in another two years? There are powers in place today that give the County the authority to require wineries to comply with the current Ordinance! Use them!
In closing, I want both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors to know that I will be making an application soon for development in the County in accordance with the current Winery Ordinance and Winery Site Plan Application, that I believe will be a significant benefit to the County and Wine Industry.
Wine & Roses, LLC
Letter from Fred Danielson
Gentlemen: I must state my complete opposition to the proposed changes. The wine industry is presently the major growth industry in San Joaquin County. Almost all of the wineries in the County are small to medium sized businesses. A major way these wineries can grow their business is by the publicity and attraction of people that come from hosting various kinds of events, and the resulting "word of mouth" generation of information about their wines and facilities to others. The proposed text amendment would be the sound of a death knell to these existing wineries and a major roadblock to anyone wanting to start a winery. Again I must state my complete opposition to this proposed amendment.
Letter from Robert Matthews
Dear Supervisor: I attended today's meeting in Lodi with Kerry Sullivan in the lead. First my credentials, retired President of Matthews Four Seasons (Fairchild Industrial Park), former Chamber President Lynwood Ca. 1988, former Stockton Chamber member 1995-2003, current S.C.O.R.E. rep for Lodi and wine enthusiast.
The event moratorium will stop new wineries from opening, existing wineries from expanding as witnessed by testimony from at least four winery's present at the meeting. There are other area counties (Calaveras, Placer, El Dorado & Amador) that will say yes and are expanding their winery base rapidly. Two counties will cheer the moratorium, Napa and Sonoma, why do you think they lobbied the state about the percentage of local grapes in a wine to be called a Napa wine. In the meeting Kerry mentioned reduced staff three different times, the lack tax revenue is why. So you plan to stop new construction, limit the marketing of the existing 56 winery's thus suppressing their business. Each new/expanded winery creates revenue for city and county in many ways. Construction (fees, sales tax on materials and jobs), tourism (hotels, restaurants, etc.), wine sales (sales tax, shipping, service jobs), increased property values (property tax) and event income (weddings, musicians, catering). The wine industry has been the best image booster for a county that needs a boost (high unemployment, foreclosure and crime).
Here is an example of the positive effect of the marketing events. Three years ago my wife and I attended a marketing event at Abundance; we joined the wine club and brough our friends to many events. Now 3 or 4 times a year we have friends from SoCal, Bay, Sac. and other states join us for an event and the preceding/following day we do a local wine tastings at 3 or 4 wineries, they all buy wine, eat at restaurants, buy gas and etc. Nancy Beckman of Visit Lodi told of one corporation (group of 25) renting a winery for the day and then doing a tasting tour the next day. She also relayed to us about a smaller 14 person group who wanted to the same but the wineries didn't want to use up one of their events for a small party, thus restricting tourism.
Another issue was enforcement; the lady that lives adjacent Abundance spoke and stated that they have events every weekend and music plays for 5 or 6 hours. She misstated the facts, the events only run every other weekend for five months and the music plays from 6 to 9:30 PM, this year's Abundance schedule is twelve events. We were at the Abundance event Sat. 4/28 along with Lodi City Manager Rad Barton. The Abundance staff checked the decibel level several times; they had private security managing parking and crowd size. Yet this woman complained again and the Sherriff's were forced to show up. The crowd was orderly and there were at least a dozen children present with their families. Their web site clearly states their restrictions. In close please reconsider the Event Moratorium, it will hurt the county and the people you represent.
Letter from Dave Pechan, Miramont Estate Vineyards & Winery
Ms. Hatef: I wish to raise my objections to the proposed limits on future small wineries proposed by San Joaquin County at the behest of San Joaquin County Farm Bureau. As a current member of Farm Bureau and former Board Member I can assure you not all members of Farm Bureau support this clearly wrongheaded ordinance. Please consider the total abandonment of this proposal and start over by first publicly analyzing what problems might need to be addressed and create an ordinance that does the least damage possible to the business climate in SJ County. This proposal amounts to a death penalty for new wineries and permanent growth limit on all existing operations. If you want the economy of SJ County to fail keep up this course and SJ County can follow Stockton's lead into bankruptcy.
Please consider the following:
1/ SJ County has been promoting the growth of Agritourism since 2009 in an effort to increase tourist visits to SJ County.
2/ SJ County has already ended projects designed to tap the agritourism market with excessive regulation.
3/ The goal of agritourism included increased the revenue to small farms, bringing tourists to our area that would frequent everything from restaurants to hotels.
4/ Agritourism would improve the recognition of wine produced by our area and thereby improve the grape prices for all growers of wine grapes. Agritourism, it was thought, would also entice visitors to consider moving here to a beautiful area, providing support to a very damaged real estate industry. Can this work? Ask how Napa real estate is doing.
5/ We have joint-ventured on tours with a local fruit stand and a local horse ranch so the reach of all the agritourism brought by small wineries, in fact, supports non-winery agritourism also.
6/ We are competing with a rapidly growing wine tourist operation in the Fresno area; you can't miss the billboards along Hwy 99 by specific small wineries. If the small wienries cannot be built in SJ County don't you think they will just go down the road to Stanislaus, Calaveras, Fresno, or Sacramento and pull business from our area? We are not doing business in a vacuum.
7/ Our winery has been a direct beneficiary of the Fresno wine tourism program as we supply wine to some of these wineries, just as we have both purchased and supplies wine to Lodi wineries.
8/ Small wineries provide a high number of jobs per acre of farm land. In our case we employ 4 workers year round on a 40 acre place; two of those positions are paid well above SJ County's average income.
9/ Small wineries are commercial property and taxes at much higher rates than Williamson Act agriculture land; additionally, the owners pay road impact fees, and personal property taxes on the valuable wine making equipment in their facilities. Let's not forget the sales taxes at the winery also. The County tax take from a small winery operation on 40 acres and 40 acres of just grapes are not even in the same league.
10/ How is it that Del Osso Farms can operate an amusement park on farm land along I-5 and draw thousands while you want to stop a small winery just from having a wedding? Don't get me wrong, I don't object to the Del Osso operation; it just shows the total lack of fairness in this county's treatment of its farm businesses.
11/ In today's Stockton Record is an article titled: Agritourism draws crowds in Hawaii. Can you believe it-- people travel to Hawaii and spend part of their vacation, not on a beach, but on a ranch or farm. Can SJ County be more on the wrong side of an important tourist draw? As a county, we are among the giants of agriculture and we are going to take our biggest potential tourist draw off the table. This is crazy.
12/ In 2009, SJ County brought in experts from around the country on promoting Agritourism in an effort to jumpstart this valuable enterprise. The problem was many of the great ideas promoted by the experts that are being done elsewhere in SJ County. It is truly like you are trying to accelerate a car with one foot on the brake. I recommend that if you vote in favor of this ordinance you immediately stop all future actions designed to increase interest in agritourism locally as a waste of taxpayer money.
This ordinance will likely end all future small wineries opening, as there are no viable distribution outlets for small startup wineries; they have to build their own clientele. What would SJ County wine country look like today had this ordinance existed 15 years ago? The large wineries would still be here and a small number of medium sized wineries with multi-state distribution would be operating. There would be no Lodi Wine trail and Lodi grape growers would have fewer buyers to compete for their grapes. Likely downtown Lodi would be more vacant than not. New hotels built in the past few years would likely not have been built. There would be fewer retaurants and far fewer visits from Chinese and other foreign wine buyers. Our little winery has Chinese visitors at least every month. Small winery export sales go directly into our local economy at a greater rate than large corporate operations that send their money to New York, and to shareholders worldwide. Small wineries buy all their supplies here, they buy farm equipment, or their growers buy farm equipment. Local builders construct our buildings, and the hotels and restaurants that help cater to these visitors.
I submit that the local business climate would be much uglier had SJ County taken this position 15 years ago. If the Board of Supervisors has any interest in improving the economic conditions in SJ County, they should be tasking Planning with finding out what can be done to improve the likelihood of new start ups, what can be done to make the neighbors happy short of closing down commerce, and how can we remove existing limits on growing businesses in this county. I can assure you they are many and varied, and I speak from experience when I say they are very effective at stopping new business and growth of existing businesses.
I am attaching my e-mail sent to all the members of the SJ County Board of Supervisors on this matter to be included in the record, along with a recent brochure inviting guests to our winery.
President, Miramont Estate Vineyards & Winery Inc.
Letter from the Vierras
My wife and I are strongly against the SJCO recent proposed to stop all marketing events for wineries. I attend every meeting at the San Joaquin county Farm Bureau which a group of wineries, grape growers and business's worked on new language and use change for wineries and off site sales. (Please refer to my included copy.)
Our group felt that some wineries were in fact abusing a "good neighbor" policy and having events that were a nuisance. These abusers should be stopped on a case to case bases not a across the board for all. Especially, those that try hard to promote Ag Business Education and events that promote the wine industry. Some of those groups that rely on the wineries and attend our wineries are:
1. Lodi Grape Growers Association
2. Lodi Wine Commission
3. Lodi Chamber of Commerce
4. Lodi Gas Storage
5. San Joaquin County Farm Bureau
6. Lodi Grape Festival
7. Hutchins Street Square
8. Lodi Visitors Center
9. Lodi Amateur Vintners Association
10. City of Stockton, Department Managers
11. (2) Bicycle Clubs
12. (4) Car Clubs
13. California Portuguese Association
14. Lodi Italian Club
15. Loel Center
16. Knight of the Vine/Lodi Chapter and International Chapter
17. Medical Friends of Wine
19. Newspapers, Magazines & News TV Stations
This approval will hurt our local economy and do more damage than good. We will do whatever it takes to make you see what a mistake this proposed ordinance change would be.
Vern and Jenise Vierra
St. Jorge Winery
Letter from Vern Vierra, Delta Buildings
Delta Buildings, Inc. has (4) winery projects in contracts. These consist of preliminary studies, site approvals and construction contracts. All of them have some need of marketing events.
If the San Joaquin County Planning Commission approves stopping marketing event these companies and private parties cannot build and will lose thousands of dollars of lost sales due to lack of promoting wine sales.
These projects will build a strong Ag business for the county not to mention a larger tax base. The construction community will also be hurt. Please consider evaluating each application with considerations for good planned wineries.
Vern J. Vierra
Delta Buildings, Inc.
Letter from Pat Stockar, Stockar Ranches
I just reviewed the Winery Ordinance Text Amendment and oppose any change to the current ordinance language. I purchased a ranch last March with the intention of developing a small winery and have Estate Crush currently making the wine off site. The ranch located immediately east of Micke Grove Park is an ideal location for marketing wines and the current ordinance would allow the necessary venues to promote our label. I am aware of a few isolated incidents with other vintners that have created the perceived necessity for change but believe this draft proposal damages both San Joaquin County agribusiness and agritourism. Please include my correspondence in the Planning Commission packet as this amendment is considered and note my formal opposition to the Winery Ordinance Text Amendment.
Stockar Ranches LLC
South River Ranches LLC