• Winery Events Umbrellas in the Sun

Dry Creek Valley Citizens Advisory Council (DCVCAC) Draft Guidelines

 Guidelines for New Use Permits with Visitor Serving Uses

Scope

The purpose of this document is to provide a set of definitions and preferred standards that will be used by the Dry Creek Valley Citizens Advisory Council (DCVCAC) as guidelines for investigating, discussing and considering applications for use permits that include visitor serving uses in agricultural zones in Dry Creek Valley. These guidelines will help to establish clear expectations so applicants and neighbors have a basis for more open dialogue and common understanding. The guidelines are a pilot program to assess the value of setting standards locally and will also help to inform future actions by the Board of Supervisors on winery events.

Goals

  1. Support agriculture and related agricultural promotion on a scale that best fits the character of Dry Creek Valley.
  2. Establish a set of clearly defined guidelines for use by the Dry Creek Valley Citizens Advisory Council in considering use permits that include new visitor serving uses.
  3. Communicate the guidelines so applicants, neighbors and County representatives have clear expectations and a basis for open dialogue and understanding.
  4. Favorably consider new applications where the overall project is substantially consistent with the guidelines. 

How to use this Guidance Outline

We recognize that all projects are unique and each will continue to be considered on a case-by-case basis considering the specific aspects of the project, property, location, and planned mitigations.

There are eight categories listed in this document, and for each category, there is associated guidance as to what would be considered appropriate and would contribute to a favorable decision by the DCVCAC. A less than favorable condition in any one category would not necessarily equate to an overall unfavorable decision. In general, the overall combination of more and less favorable conditions will be used by CAC members to evaluate the use permit application. 

Guidelines

Access & Traffic

  1. There is access to the parcel on public roadways of at least 18 feet in width.
  2. There is adequate ingress and egress to the property, including adequate site distances to the entrance and distance from crossroads and other driveways. The highest volume of expected visitors can enter and exit the property safely without traffic backup on public roadways.

Site

  1. The parcel is at least 20 acres.
  2. The majority of the usable land is in agriculture, some portion of which is pertinent to the visitor serving uses.
  3. There is sufficient water on the parcel to support all new uses without negatively impacting neighboring properties.
  4. All parking is on-site. There is no parking along public roadways.
  5. Parking plans that utilize road easements have the written agreement of all neighbors that share those easements.
  6. Parking in vineyard rows and avenues may be inadequate in wet conditions. 

Activities and Events

  1. All activities and events will promote products grown or processed on the site and will be hosted by the proprietor, with on-site management by the proprietor’s staff. The facility will not be rented out for use by a 3rd party and no rental fees will be charged.
  2. New use permits will specify limits for each of the categories of Activities and Events listed below. (See Section 6 for Activities and Events Definitions.) Projects that support the guidelines will be viewed as more favorable. The limits for Activities and Events are shown below.
Activities & Event Guidelines
Public and Direct Sales Activities During regular hours  Limited to the Maximum Persons at One Time set in the use permit
Limited to the hours of 10AM – 5PM
Direct Sales Activities Outside of regular hours 50 visitors at one time, or the Maximum Persons at One Time, whichever is less
Maximum of 12 times a year
Maximum of two per month
Limited to the hours of 8AM – 10AM or 5PM – 10PM
Trade Marketing Activities Limited to the Maximum Persons at One Time set in the use permit
Limited to the hours of 8am – 10pm
Association Sponsored Events Up to 15 event days per year
Traffic and parking plans required if Maximum Persons at One Time limits are exceeded
Limited to the hours of 10AM – 5PM 
Winery Events Up to double the Maximum Persons at One Time set in the use permit
Maximum of 2 days per quarter
Events outside of regular hours limited to 2 event days per year
Limited to the hours of 8AM – 10PM

Noise Impact

Noise impact is one of the most complex categories in Use Permits with Visitor Serving Uses. We encourage applicants to pay close attention to the Sonoma County General Plan 2020 Noise Element, particularly Policy NE-1c, when crafting their use permit application. Requests for outdoor amplified music, especially after 5pm, will typically require noise studies and mitigation measures and may not be appropriate for some projects.

  1. All noise impact conforms to the Sonoma County Noise Standards as set forth in the General Plan.
  2. Applicant has noted the distances in each direction from the visitor serving areas to the neighboring residences and indicated noise mitigations, if necessary. Projects with greater than required distances from property lines and existing residences are more favorable.
  3. All outdoor amplified music ends by 9pm.

Food Service

  1. Restaurants are not allowed. There will be no food prepared to order from a menu.
  2. Catering and commercial kitchens are acceptable, including such equipment as stoves, wood-fired ovens and barbecues.
  3. Wine and food pairing is allowed between the hours of 10am and 5pm, especially when it showcases site or locally grown foods.
  4. Sale of pre-packaged foods is allowed.
  5. All food service requires appropriate health permits. 

Facilities

  1. Projects with facilities and production less than or equal to the following limits will be viewed favorably
    • Visitor serving areas: X square feet under roof
    •  Production facilities: Y square feet under roof
    • Production (for wineries): Z cases per year
  2. Facilities are sited to minimize visual impact. Projects with buildings and landscaping that are of an appropriate scale to the area will be considered favorably.
  3. Nighttime lighting levels are at the minimum necessary to provide for security and safety of the use and users. Exterior lighting that minimizes glare and spillover onto neighboring parcels will be considered favorably.
  4. Marketing accommodations for private guests are allowed, provided that the use promotes or markets agricultural products grown or processed on the site, the scale of the use is appropriate to the production and/or processing use and no commercial use of private guest accommodations is allowed (i.e. rental fees are not charged).

Production

New wineries that use at least X% of grapes from Sonoma County and at least Y% of grapes from Dry Creek Valley will be viewed favorably.

Concentration

Different areas within the Dry Creek Valley are distinct in terms of concentration of residents, wineries and other developed uses, so it is difficult to establish specific limits. Requests for new use permits that take density into consideration and seek to reduce the impact on nearby existing wineries or residences will be viewed more favorably. Such factors as the proximity to other wineries, residences and intersections will be considered. In general, projects that are not clustered around existing developed uses or are closer to major highways will be viewed as more favorable

Suggested Best Practices

The applicant has met or offered to meet at least once with neighbors to describe and hear reactions to their plans.

  1. This includes all neighbors who are likely to be impacted by the project.
  2. Best practice suggests that multiple meetings over the course of the planning process are most effective, with one meeting very early in the project before plans are developed in detail. 

Definitions

Maximum Persons at One Time

The Maximum Persons at One Time is defined as the total visitors on the site at one time that can be accommodated by:

  1. The septic system
  2. On-site parking as follows:
    1. 1 space for each employee 
    2. 1 space for every 2.5 visitors
  3. Building occupancy levels as authorized by the Fire Department

Activities

Public Sales Activities are defined as wine tasting, tours, wine and food educational pairings, seminars and other hospitality related activities supporting the promotion of wine sales that are open to the public.

  1. Will not exceed the Maximum Persons at One Time limit established in the application.
  2. Do not require an invitation.
  3. A fee may be charged.
  4. May be advertised to the public.

Direct Sales Activities are defined as by-invitation activities such as winemaker lunches or dinners, release days or pickup parties designed to promote the sale of agricultural products.

  1. Will not exceed the Maximum Persons at One Time limit established in the application.
  2. A fee may be charged.
  3. Invitations may be issued using such methods as mail, email, websites or social media.

Trade Marketing Activities are defined as by-invitation activities for staff, trade or distribution partners.

  1. Will not exceed the Maximum Persons at One Time limit established in the application.
  2. Are not advertised to the public. 

Events

Association Sponsored Events are defined as events sponsored by a recognized organization to promote wine sales and tourism, conducted across multiple sites within a specified geographic area.

  1. Meet the requirements and follow the best practices of the association sponsoring the event.
  2. Have adequate mitigation plans for septic and parking if they exceed the Maximum Persons at One Time limit.
  3. Parking along public roadways is not allowed

Winery Events are those events that are expected to exceed the Maximum Persons at One Time limit.

  1. Invitations may be issued (using such methods as mail, email, websites or social media).
  2. Must be explicitly requested in the use permit specifying the number of events annually and the maximum size of each event.
  3. Require adequate mitigation plans for septic and parking if the visitors expected exceed the Maximum Persons at One Time limit. Parking along public roadways is not allowed. 

Contact Information

Phone Operator Hours
Public Lobby Hours
2550 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
38.465074, -122.723705