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Don't use pandemic to erode winery regulations

  • Updated

Open letter to David Morrison, Napa County Director of Planning, Building and Environmental Services:

This is in regard to your request for comment on the following requested economic relief measures to address the impacts caused by COVID and the fires.

Although Napa Vision 2050 agrees with many of the measures you have adopted to date to help the industries, we do not want further erosion of regulations. Further concessions enable even more concessions to those who feel entitled and in many cases endanger other businesses, neighbors, and the environment.

All retail and hospitality businesses in Napa County are struggling to survive. Tipping the balance to improve the economics for one sector sends the wrong message to our residents and business owners.

1. Napa Vision 2050 strongly opposes weakening permitted uses. We do not approve allowing wine tastings and events to take place subject only to infrastructure limitations like parking, septic capacity, fire, health and safety standards, and applicable County Code requirements pertaining to noise, health department, etc. The permits approved for each winery take into consideration many environmental factors and should not be summarily ignored.

2. We oppose allowing all winery tasting room hours to include mornings and evenings, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., subject only to limitations of infrastructure. This competes with actual restaurants within city limits as well as ignores the impact of traffic to and from the wineries during rush hours and increases dangerous conditions on our famously steep, narrow, winding roads. It further commercializes our ag lands away from true agricultural use and imposes the burden of noise and traffic on neighboring properties.

3. We can only approve of expanding tasting areas to include all areas of the winery footprint if it complies with permitted hours, visitor capacity, water and wastewater capacity, and ADA requirements and it does not impinge on COVID safety protocols and does not further affect neighbors via noise levels and water use. Using existing spaces such as caves or production areas on a temporary basis should support the COVID safely protocols.

4. We oppose eliminating the by-appointment requirement for wine tasting for all wineries. We find this particularly important to allow for planned cleaning between visitors, for social distancing and encouraging deliberate consumers who are more likely to be respectful of where they are and what they are doing.

Charlotte Helen Williams, president

Vision 2050

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