February 25, 2024
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Supervisors nix updated winery ordinance


The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors denied an update to the county’s winery ordinance.

Despite more than four years of public meetings, deliberation and a recommendation for adoption from the planning commission, the board voted against the update 4-1 at a Nov. 22 meeting. The existing ordinance, implemented in 2004, will remain intact.

The new ordinance aimed to clarify and streamline the permit process for new winery development in some of the fastest-growing wine regions in the area. The existing ordinance lacks specific details regarding visitation parameters and planted acreage requirements.

The proposed ordinance would’ve divided wineries by size into three tiers, prescribing minimum property sizes and how many acres of vines need to be planted. It would’ve allowed tasting rooms in wineries between 10 acres and 20 acres in size via a conditional use permit that would allow up to 20 people to taste wines by appointment only in up to 300-square-foot rooms.

The ordinance would not allow tasting in wineries smaller than 10 acres, or in “inner rural” areas. It also capped the total number of visitors for wine tasting and special events.

The overall sentiment was mixed. Some vintners supported the tasting-by-appointment provisions, saying they needed direct-to-consumer sales to survive. Others claimed that the permitting process was too restrictive and there was a basic lack of understanding on how and to which operations the new regulations would apply.

Many neighbors argued that the area’s ill-equipped roads and dwindling water supply cannot accommodate more use.

The board can bring the ordinance update back, but there doesn’t seem to be impetus to do so in the near future.

• Contact Alex Kacik at akacik@pacbiztimes.com.