Santa Clara County to vote on changes to winery regulations

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will be voting on August 21 on whether and how to change the County zoning regulations as they apply to wineries. Some of the winery owners are asking the County to eliminate permit requirements and other regulations to make it easier for the wineries to engage in agri-tourism activities like hosting events and weddings. Although Committee for Green Foothills supports this goal, we also believe that some regulations are necessary to protect the environment. We believe that the recommendations made by the County Planning Office, which has studied this issue extensively, create a reasonable balance between encouraging agri-tourism and protecting the natural resources of the County.

One of the biggest areas of controversy in the proposed changes is about the size and frequency of special events. Currently, wineries must apply for permits before holding any events of any size or for any purpose. Some of the recommendations in front of the Board of Supervisors argue that wineries should be able to hold events of up to 100 or even 300 people without a permit. CGF believes that these recommendations go too far; instead, we support the Planning Office’s recommendation of no more than 50 guests per event without a permit. (Wineries would still be able to apply for permits to hold larger events if they so desire.) We believe that, although the impacts of one winery’s events might be minor, the cumulative effect of every winery in the County potentially hosting unlimited events with hundreds of people could have very significant impacts on traffic, air quality, wildlife, and natural resources. Under the Planning Office’s proposal, these impacts would be evaluated during the permit process, and appropriate mitigations would be agreed on, which is why the permit process is so important. Without that process – without the opportunity for the County to ask whether holding events at a particular winery would impact the environment significantly – there is no way to mitigate any potential impacts. This is why CGF believes that only events of 50 people or fewer should be allowed without a permit.

To tell the Board of Supervisors to protect the environment by keeping the permit requirement for gatherings larger than 50 people, email them at [email protected].

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