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Placer County "community center" winery plans opposed

Supervisors told that applications could create farm ?night clubs?
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Concern Concern over a potential proliferation of large-scale events at Placer County wineries boiled over Tuesday at a Board of Supervisors meeting. Four speakers expressed fears that recent ?community center? applications such as Wise Villa Winery on Wise Road in the Lincoln area, Rock Hill Winery on Del Mar Avenue in the Loomis area and Gold Hill Gardens on Gold Hill Road in Newcastle were attempts to skirt county zoning regulations. Carol Rubin, who lives near the Gold Hill Gardens location, said she was concerned that wineries and entrepreneurs would be establishing little more than ?party halls? in prime agricultural areas. ?The prospects are causing alarm and bitterness,? Rubin said. At issue is a county allowance under farm zoning that allows a year-round ?community center.? Kevin Luther, winemaker at Wise Villa Winery, said that the ?community center? description is a misnomer that awkwardly describes what the winery wants to do ? serve wine and a little food to guests. Wise Villa?s owner, Grover Lee, has a dream that started when he visited a small winery in France, Luther said. ?The owner poured Grover through his wines and he had some foods to accompany them,? Luther said. ?He felt it was really nice and always wanted to do that. Now his goal is to have the ability to serve a little food with wine and hold small dinners, private events.? Lee said Wise Villa seems to be caught in a crossfire on issues surrounding facilities planning to hold weddings. ?They?re afraid of weddings and big raging parties,? Luther said. ?We?re planning small things, with occasional light jazz and dinner parties.? Luther added that concerns about people drinking and driving are also overblown. ?Our full tasting total amount is less ounces than a single glass of wine,? Luther said. ?Ninety-five percent leave after sampling less than half a glass. Our only issue is trying to build a winery and trying to have a tasting room.? At Tuesday?s board meeting, rural Newcastle resident Mike Giles said the current winery ordinance allows outdoor events but it appears some wineries want no restrictions. ??The question is whether a farmer with a farm should be allowed to have a nightclub?? Giles said. Giles said San Joaquin County and the community of Lodi are already struggling with what he described as ?out-of-control events.? ?They?re trying to get the genie back in the bottle,? Giles said. The small group, which spoke during the public comment period of Tuesday?s board meeting, is asking the Board of Supervisors to support a moratorium on issuing minor use permits and variances that would allow wineries to function as year-round community centers. Instead, they want the county to take a look at tightening the community center regulations to prevent out-of-control winery uses. ?The designation is being abused and is flouting all sentiments of the community,? Teresa Chaney said. Chaney lives across from the Gold Hill Gardens property and spoke at Tuesday?s meeting. Under board rules, non-agendized items presented during public comment period are not taken up by supervisors. But supervisors could discuss the issue at a future meeting.