4 letters: Improved winery regulations, strict gun control

Huge improvements for SC Valley wineries after county passes new ordinance
Dear Editor,
Agri-tourism in Santa Clara County got a big boost this month when improved winery regulations were unanimously accepted by the Board of Supervisors. The new ordinance simplifies the process, and reduces costs for businesses. It also allows wineries to continue to hold concerts and substantially reduces permit fees in many cases.
I am very proud and grateful for the hard work of the Winery Working Group, Farm Bureau, Winery Association, county staff and the public for their year-long involvement in this process. Changing public policy is rarely fast or easy, and is often misunderstood as was the case initially with the winery ordinance. But when you get results like this, it is definitely worth it!
Obviously, permits are required in order to insure adequate emergency vehicle access, parking, sanitation, food safety, etc. Under the improved ordinance, a Use Permit for many events is now replaced by a Special Permit, reducing fees from $14,000 to $2,000! These Special Permits are valid for many years – not just for each event.  In addition, small family-owned wineries that previously needed a Use Permit are now able to have small events “by right” which means that no Planning Office permit is required. In order to protect surrounding neighbors, outdoor amplified music still requires a permit and the existing noise ordinance remains in place.   
Streamlining the permitting process and reducing fees took a lot of public and private effort. In August 2011, stakeholders formed a Wineries Working Group. The group met and discussed at nine public meetings and developed policy recommendations for the County Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee in January 2012. From February to May 2012, the Planning Commission held five workshops and public hearings.
Silicon Valley is thought of as being purely tech-centric. The reality is that our local wineries hold a very special place in California history: The Santa Clara Valley is California’s very first premium wine production region, dating back to 1798 when grapes were grown at the Santa Clara Mission.  The Native Americans named it “the Valley of the Heart’s Delight” and today boasts nearly 60 wineries.
Directional signage along the state highways is needed for the Santa Clara Valley wine region. If you drive on Highways 85 and U.S. 101 from Palo Alto to Gilroy, almost no vineyards or wineries can be seen from the road. This is because our wineries are tucked into hillsides and valleys, away from the public view. Visitors to our region will be more inclined to visit our wineries if they know they are there. I hope that we will soon see progress from the state to allow for this needed improvement to bolster local agri-tourism.
Due to the improved regulations, Santa Clara County is now among the most business-friendly for wineries in California. The improved ordinance streamlines the permitting process, reduces costs and balances neighborhood concerns about noise. It will also help grow the local winery industry and agri-tourism in the long run.
Cheers and thanks to all involved!
Supervisor Mike Wasserman, District 1, Santa Clara County

Ready to stop listening to the gun rights lobby – time for strict control measures
Dear Editor,
Perhaps because the victims were mostly children, perhaps because it came on the heels of three other record-setting mass shootings. But whatever the reason, America is ready to replace condolences with action.
For the first time in our history, we’re ready to tell the gun lobby that we’ve had enough. When National Rifle Association spokesmen hit the talk shows this week, pleading, “Let’s not get too hasty,” this time, we’re ready to act quickly and hastily before the next round of shooters can claim anymore victims.
This time, when NRA spokesmen hide behind the Second Amendment, we’ll reach behind it, grab them and hold them accountable. When they sit smugly on the talk shows and claim, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” we’ll respond “no sir, actually, guns kill people.”
It is now time for a ban on automatic weapons, increased waiting periods and background checks for gun purchases, or whatever measure it takes so that the next would-be mass murderer won’t have such an easy time getting a weapon.
Kym Coates, Morgan Hill
Ringing endorsement for Dennis Kennedy to take the vacant water district seat
Dear Editor,
Dennis Kennedy will make a difference on Santa Clara Valley Water District Board.
Dennis Kennedy has been an active positive force in many facets of Santa Clara County. Just look at his accomplishments as mayor of Morgan Hill.  He actively led the improvements that include the Recreation Center, Centennial Center, Aquatic Center, Sports Field, the Monterey Road median divider addition (remember when it was called “Blood Alley”), the U.S. 101 extension to San Jose and widening through Morgan Hill. His reach extends far beyond Morgan Hill. For decades he has served on an endless number of county-wide committees and boards while serving as a council member,  mayor of Morgan Hill and beyond.
Long ago I asked Dennis what motivates him. His answer was direct and immediate. He said, “I think I can make a difference”.  
And indeed he has through reflective listening, active participation and honest leadership with a firm value-based foundation. Just look around and you’ll see the difference he continues to make. Check out his opinion in the weekly Morgan Hill Times feature, Around the Water Cooler.
Please endorse Dennis for the open seat on the SCVWD.  He will represent our community. He will make a difference!
Don Holmes, Morgan Hill

Clarion call for Supervisor Shirakawa’s resignation?
Dear Editor,
Almost daily new allegations and inquiries are leveled against Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa.
After all this time shouldn’t the mayors and councilpersons in the county be concerned? Shouldn’t the Sheriff and District Attorney be expressing concern? Why isn’t someone calling for an audit of all county and city credit cards in Santa Clara County?
I would like to see an itemized list of everything that is charged to the taxpayers.
Keith C. De Filippis, San Jose

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