General Plan policies call for the development of regulations to further define compatible agricultural promotional activities including their permissible sizes and intensities. The General Plan also states that visitor-serving uses even if related to surrounding agricultural activities can be detrimental to the primary use of land for the production of food, fiber, and plant materials. The goal of the General Plan policies is to preserve agricultural lands and maintain the rural character of the area while enhancing the economic viability of farms. The Board of Supervisors directed staff to develop regulations addressing winery events and potential over-concentration.
In June 2015, the Director of Permit Sonoma formed a group of industry representatives and neighborhood groups to advise staff on the key issues and policy options. The Working Group met for six months ending in early November 2016 and gave considerable insights into the business needs and the impacts of winery events to the local area.
The Board of Supervisors held a study session in 2016 and directed staff to prepare options for updating policy on regulating winery events, particularly in the three areas of local concentration:
- Dry Creek Valley
- Westside Road
- Sonoma Valley
In 2017, the Dry Creek Valley Citizen’s Advisory Council developed Guidelines for Visitor Serving Uses, as a first step in addressing issues related to winery events in Dry Creek Valley. On May 26, 2021, the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission adopted Guidelines for winery-related use permit applications in the Sonoma Valley. An advisory group for the Westside Road may be formed to develop draft Westside Road guidelines.
On February 18, 2021 Permit Sonoma held a virtual public workshop on developing the framework for a countywide winery event ordinance. Using information obtained from public comments, stakeholder groups, and local advisory groups, staff prepared a draft Winery Event Ordinance with a set of Winery Standards that would apply to winery visitor serving uses in agricultural zones, outside of the coastal zone. Staff is continuing the public engagement process by presenting the draft Winery Events Ordinance in a public hearing before the Planning Commission, followed by a final presentation of the draft Ordinance in a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors. Public hearings are all opportunities for public comment. For more information, click on the Past Meetings and Documents tabs in the Winery Events menu column.