Somebody recently asked why the 2010 Winery Definition Ordinance changes were not a Measure P vote. In 2008 Napa County Citizens voted for Measure P — one of the provisions requires voter approval before agricultural land in the Ag Preserve can be converted to other uses.

In 2010 the WDO was changed to allow intensified food service and marketing events in the Ag Preserve. These changes, along with compliance and enforcement issues, now allow wineries to operate like restaurants and tourism attractions upon Ag Preserve lands that Measure P was passed to protect from such urban uses.

The 2010 WDO changes gave inadequate notice to the general public of possible consequences from the changes. There was no Environmental Impact Report on what is essentially a wholesale re-purposement of our entire county zoning, allowing intensified commercial tourism on our Ag lands, impacting every road and citizen. Why was this not a Measure P vote? Why no EIR?

At three county meetings between Feb. 2 and May 11, 2010, when the WDO changes passed, Board Agenda letters stated there would be No Fiscal Impact and no potentially significant environmental impacts, that the resolution “would neither encourage nor discourage additional wineries or additional activities at wineries … ”

This has proven untrue as intensified financial gain of increased marketing events and food service most certainly encourages more wineries and activities at wineries, with precisely the commercial tourism element Measure P was meant to protect us from. We now have close to 23,000 events permitted at wineries each year with no proper analysis of cumulative impacts.

The 2010 WDO changes compromise our county zoning integrity. Zoning is an insurance of stability for a property owners’ investment and quality of life. Citizen stakeholders are investors here, too, thousands of properties. And we were left out of the conversation in 2010, left out of the vote.

With lot line adjustments, almost every acre of county Ag and residential land, as well as every citizen stakeholder and property owner, are vulnerable to intensified commercial tourism impacts.

When zoning is compromised, the value of one property can be usurped by impacts created by a neighboring property. Measure P was passed to ensure that all our stakeholders, including the citizens, are included in decisions that impact our Ag Preserve and our own lives and investment in Napa County.

We must suspend all approvals related to wine tourism until impacts are analyzed and due process given the citizens. The citizens, not the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee, must have the vote we were entitled to five years ago. Our first commitment must be to the rights of our fellow citizens of the state of California and of the United States, not to any one industry or private concern.

Geoff Ellsworth

St. Helena

Editor’s note: Planning Director David Morrison confirms the 23,000 permitted number; the county believes far fewer than that occur every year, but the department has no specific data. In any case, such events must be related directly to the education of customers about wine. Most wineries are limited to 12 or fewer such events and about a third are allowed none at all. Such “marketing events” should not be confused with “temporary events,” which include any “festival, fair, show, showcase, house or garden design tour, concert, dance, rally, parade, demonstration of competition of creative athletic form to which the public is invited or admitted with or without the payment of an admission charge.” Morrison says those are permitted on a one-time basis and the county approves an average of about 83 per year.

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