A couple of weeks ago, a small group of Ramona, CA residents opposed to San Diego County's back country becoming another Napa Valley succeeded in throwing up a roadblock by proposing that a full environmental impact statement be completed before the proposal be brought to the County Commissioners for a final yes vote. The vote had been scheduled for the end of March, but with an EIS looming, the vote appeared to be delayed for weeks, if not months and years at significant public expense. This request for the full EIS came very late in the game, and was quite a surprise to supporters who have painstakingly been working with the county government for years to assist in the drafting of a sound measure.
Carolyn Harris of the Ramona Vineyard Association reports the following breaking news:
"Today the San Diego County Planning Commission considered the DPLU's [Department of Land Use] newest recommendation to (1) require an administrative use permit for all boutique wineries to make direct sales, while (2) an environmental impact report is prepared. After an extended discussion and some excellent presentations by RVVA [Ramona Valley Vineyard Association] members, Eric Larson of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, and Carol Fowler of the Ramona Chamber of Commerce, the Planning Commission voted4-3 in favor of rejecting the new recommendations and instead agreeing to forward to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors the same draft of the ordinance that they approved on 7 March 2008.The consensus of the Planning Commission (including Ramona's Bryan Woods, appointed by Supervisor Dianne Jacob) was that none of the opposition's arguments against the 17 Jan 08 revised mitigated negative declaration rose to the level that should trigger an EIR (that the proposed project will have a significant effect on the environment). The Planning Commission appeared unanimous in wanting to do what they could to move the ordinance forward as quickly and safely as possible.The action that was taken today does not insure that we are back on track, or that the major reversal of 20 March has been entirely reversed again. What it does mean is that we have a lot of support for our measure and that the Planning Commission is not afraid to stand up for us. We appreciate their support." -- Carolyn Harris, Ramona Valley Winery Association & Ramona Valley Vineyard Association Secretary and General Counsel.
The proposal makes sense for San Diego for several reasons, including:
1) Promotes the rural character of the county, encouraging agricultural use of the land with a low water usage, drought resistant crop (grapes). This will become particularly important in the future if current weather patterns continue and politics reduce water deliveries to Southern California.
2) It's difficult to make much money as a low volume grape grower in San Diego county. The money is to made (or at least most of the costs covered) by the value-added activity of producing and selling wine.
3) The ordinance would allow small, boutique wineries to legally sell the fruit of their labor (wine)to the general public, without obtaining a major land use permit (which requires much time and expense for a small grower/producer).
4) The ordinance promotes the growing and use of locally grown grapes. (I can attest to that ourselves, when we purchased 100% of our grapes from San Diego in 2007; whereas in past years we have purchased from Riverside County and Mexico).
Friends, free the grapes! Allow the good people of San Diego the benefit of living in a land dotted with boutique wineries. If this ordinance is passed, then it will be possible for you, too, to purchase Bluey's finest wine from the Blue-Merle Vineyard. If you live in San Diego County and have a favorable opinion about this, please let your elected County Official know.
(Picture shown is vineyard planted in April, 2008 in Fallbrook, CA.)
(Editor's note: The San Diego Winery Ordinance was passed the week of April 24th. See our journal entry for April 27th for additional information.)