A small victory for Lompoc wineries Tuesday night as dozens came together to speak out against what they considered a restrictive zoning ordinance by the city’s planning commission.
The city is currently working on updating several zoning ordinances that haven’t been changed in several decades.
Some wineries call the proposed ordinance “anti-wine.” It would not only change the types of events a winery could have but the number as well. The city hopes it can work together with the wine community before the ordinance returns to the city council again.
“Most wineries would not consider having a musician play as a special event, so to tell them they can only do that four times a quarter they’re going, ‘Wait a minute, every other weekend I have someone playing music,’ so that’s the kind of tension that gets created,” explained Wine Factory owner Steve Bridge.
Special events mean special permits, which means some parts of the tasting experience may have been taken away.
“A special permit costs hundreds of dollars and it takes a few weeks, so you can’t be last minute and you can’t do a small event where it’s not going to generate a lot of money to be able to spend the money to get the permit. The language was more restrictive than the language before the zoning update,” said Steve Arrowood, owner of Montemar Winery.
The ordinance also only allowed for a certain number of events per building as opposed to per tenant, which would mean some wineries that share spaces would not be able to have events of their own.
The city says all of these changes were a result of building and fire codes.
“It was never intended or to come across as the city being anti-wine. The main point was to preserve health and safety so staff does apologize if it came across that way,” said Planning Manager Brian Halvorson.
The city hopes it can work together with those in the wine industry to make an ordinance that works for everyone.
“Without wine, no one would know where Paso Robles was, no one would know where Santa Ynez was and right now, no one knows where Lompoc is, so we can take advantage of wine tourism and have a vision that we can be as vibrant as our neighbors,” Arrowood said.
While the city continues to work on this issue, some are applauding parts of the ordinance for finally allowing for restaurants to come to places like the Wine Ghetto, something that has been many years in the making.
“Lompoc professes to be a business-friendly city and this is their chance to prove they’re a business-friendly city,” Bridge said.
The City of Lompoc’s Planning Commission will meet again about this issue on April 10.