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Wrong steps in winery ordinance talks

Time:2016-11-20 16:28wine - Red wine life health Click:

Wine Industry Winery doreen farr supervisor

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Guest Commentary

Wrong steps in winery ordinance talks

Updated Nov 15, 2016

It was evident at the close of the Board of Supervisors' review of the proposed winery ordinance that something had gone wrong after 65 wine industry speakers passionately and emotionally objected to the ordinance.

Only two spoke in favor of the ordinance and neither were from the wine industry. Supervisor Salud Carbajal also correctly noted there was a “problem with the process.”

The wine industry has been scratching its collective heads for more than four years as we attended 27 public meetings, four Planning Commission meetings and spoke hundreds of times, without any apparent impact. We believed we must have been lousy communicators, because no matter who or how many times we explained our issues and problems, planners continued to propose the most regressive wine industry ordinance in California, and thus in the United States.

Arbitrary numbers were produced. We knew they made no sense. When we asked planners how they came up with their numbers they ignored us.

In contrast, the task force that developed the current ordinance in 2004 spent about six months meeting twice a month to develop it. Supervisors approved it 5-0.

One major difference between 2004 and 2012-16 was that then-3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall actively participated in the process. Current 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr has not, at least to the wine industry side of the equation. However, this does not explain why planners were not listening.

We finally found out at the Board of Supervisors meeting why we were ineffective. At the end of the meeting Glen Russell, director of Planning and Development, demeaned the collaborative task force approach, stating: “Staff would take input from the task force and then write the ordinance.”

In other words, it was never staff’s intent to engage in a dialog and use a collaborate approach. The 27 public meetings were all a charade because there was never any dialogue with planners.

Also during his presentation Russell dismissed the heartfelt, passionate pleas by the wine industry “as a well-coordinated attack.” This further evidences Russell’s ignorance of the Santa Barbara wine industry.

Morgen McLaughlin wishes she or the Vintners Association were so powerful. Anybody who knows the Santa Barbara wine industry knows it is made up of many small family wineries that are fiercely independent, passionately individualistic and blissfully egocentric. Herding cats is a picnic compared to trying to get local winemakers to sing out of the same hymnal or even sing for that matter. The passion, emotion and barely controlled fury from the winemakers were their individual reaction to the regressive proposed ordinance, not anything Morgen or the vintners orchestrated.

The other thing that went wrong is the 1st and 2nd District supervisors’ erroneous assumption that this is a 3rd District issue and their deferral to the 3rd District supervisor. It is true the squeaky wheels are all east of Highway 101. However, there are as many wineries in the 4th and 5th Districts as there are in the 3rd District.

The flawed “approved wineries” in the EIR says there are 64 wineries in the county. None are in the 1st or 2nd Districts. According to the flawed EIR there are 27 or 30 or 33 “approved wineries” in the Santa Ynez AVA which means there are 37 or 34 or 31 “approved wineries” in the 4th and 5th Districts. Thus, the 1st and 2nd District should defer to the three districts that have wineries.

To correct what went wrong we need to use the collaborative approach of a task force.

Stephen Pepe is president of EconAlliance and a principal in Clos Pepe Vineyards.

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