The St. Helena City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday, with Mayor Ann Nevero absent, to rezone a 22.3-acre property on Dowdell Lane to accommodate the proposed Crocker & Starr Winery.
The lot will be rezoned from 20-Acre Agriculture to Winery, which is still considered an agricultural designation. Councilmembers approved the plan after City Attorney Tom Brown assured them that the decision wouldn’t set a legal precedent for future projects.
There are no houses nearby, and all the neighboring property owners support the plans for a 9,950-square-foot, 25,000-gallon-per-year winery. The commission endorsed the project in June, but the rezoning required council approval.
Councilman Peter White said the project meets all the city’s guidelines for the Winery designation. Councilwoman Sharon Crull said she supported the project because the applicants will still have plenty of vineyards, the neighbors are in full support, and the winery’s marketing plan is modest.
“Four groups a day is very, very little, so I don’t really think there’s going to be a traffic impact,” Crull said.
Pam Simpson, president/CEO of the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber supports the project. Sandy Ericson and Geoff Ellsworth were more skeptical, warning that regardless of the merits of this project, the council’s decision could open the door for more commercial development in rural areas adjacent to residential neighborhoods.
Responding to Ericson's and Ellsworth’s concerns about a potential loophole allowing projects to skirt local winery regulations, Crull agreed that the council should look at clarifying the city’s zoning ordinances.