Napa County in 2015 will confront the question of whether its world-famous wine country is becoming saturated with wineries.
The winery discussion that emerged in 2014 at various public meetings has proved complex. Some people worried that a kind of winery tipping point is being reached, leading to traffic problems, groundwater depletion and the agricultural preserve becoming too commercialized.
But Supervisor Diane Dillon said at one point, for every person who tells the county to tighten winery rules, there’s one who wants to loosen them.
So far, the discussion has been largely piecemeal as various winery applications wind their way through the application process. In March, the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission could meet to tackle what Dillon has called the “bigger picture.”
County Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison said the larger issue is how to accommodate a booming economy throughout the Napa Valley. Reviewing the Winery Definition Ordinance alone won’t address all of the perceived problems, he said.
The March meeting will involve checking in with the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission to find out where they see problems, Morrison said. The results could be an invitation for a larger discussion involving other jurisdictions, the wine industry and various groups to see how the various issues relate to each other, he said.
“What you don’t want to do is focus on one small piece of the puzzle and ignore everything else that’s going on,” Morrison said.
Rex Stults of Napa Valley Vintners said the group has put a lot of thought into such questions. The group represents vintners large and small and its members have a variety of perspectives, he said.
Vintners are concerned about traffic and water, he said.
“Those are legitimate issues,” Stults said. “We’re happy to be a part of solving them. But the issues are not solely the responsibility of the wine industry in the unincorporated county. These are issues that transcend borders into city limits. These are issues that transcend into other industries.”
The planned March meeting between the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission could be the springboard to a still larger discussion that could last much of 2015.