Wineries, Wasserman and regs

1. New regs a far cry from ‘The Day the Music Died’

Some owners are citing last Tuesday’s passage  of new regulations for wineries by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors as “The Day the Music Died” and letting everyone know the county is to blame.
Meanwhile, District One Supervisor Mike Wasserman, points out that some fees have been reduced, tiered permits are now available, a county-backed wayfinding program with winery signage is in the works and that food service regulations have been revamped to make things easier.
It’s a shame this process could not reach a smooth-sailing conclusion. Where the breakdown happened is difficult to determine, but it’s real.
Hopefully, the dialogue can be continued with less hyperbole and some revisions made before the final ordinance is cemented.

2. Wasserman should re-think the amplified music rule

Winery owners, however, need to be reasonable with regards to obvious issues. For example, people heading to their cars parked next to the ditch along Watsonville Road after a Shane Dwight Friday night concert at Jason-Stephens winery constitute a tragic accident waiting to happen. And if Tom Kruse wants a bona fide tasting room regularly open to the public, it should be inspected and permitted for electrical, plumbing and fire.
To make unreasonable demands only poisons the process and hurts the smaller wineries that do not have enough money to obtain a full-fledged use permit ($14,000 application, substantially more to complete the process) and need streamlined regulations to make things work.
Supervisor Wasserman, to his credit, has agreed to take a look at two sticking points – the number of people allowed by right at a small winery event and the amplified music restrictions.

3. There probably should be a go-to winery planning guru

Even though the negotiation process has taken a year between the county and the Winery Working Group, Wasserman should have delayed last week’s vote until his  ducks were in a row. That he voted for more stringent regulations than the Planning Commission recommended sprinkled salt in lingering regulation wounds that frustrated winery owners have been bearing for years.
Those owners, however, would do well to remember that Wasserman has succeeded in vastly reducing ridiculous water storage tank regulations, fashioned reasonable food service rules and invested countless hours working on the thorny issues that come with winery territory.
Our wineries are diverse, and in need of creative and flexible solutions that truly assist in the welcome growth that has taken place in the last decade.
Perhaps the county needs to appoint one person who is the go-to resolution guru for planning and permitting. Often, the complaint is that one inspector says one thing and a planner says another.
What it’s about now is rebuilding trust. Winery owners need to give Wasserman a break. He deserves it. And Wasserman needs to get back in the saddle and drive this to a satisfactory conclusion. The wineries are an important part of South County’s economy, charm and entertainment offerings. Let’s encourage more growth, safely, with reasonable guidelines that are not punitive.
Sure, not everyone is going to be happy, but there should be a more positive consensus than exists now.

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