By Sharyn Cornelius

The Shasta County Planning Division is currently in the process of revising the “Winery Development Standards” section of the Zoning Plan. With the local winery business growing by leaps and bounds, local viticulturists found the current standards “difficult to understand and cumbersome to navigate,” Director of Resource Management Rick Simon wrote in his report to the Board of Supervisors who considered the matter at their meeting on Nov. 4, 2014. The standards adopted in 2002 also fail to “reflect the industry trend toward very small ‘boutique’ operations, according to Simon. The Board voted unanimously to approve revising the standards. At the Planning Commission meeting on Nov. 13, Simon held a workshop for the Commissioners in which he highlighted the major changes proposed for the Winery Development Standards. Among the most important revisions is the addition of the “Boutique” winery type to the previous classifications of “Small, Medium, and Large.” The sizes are defined by wine production: Boutique Wineries produce up to 1,000 cases per year; Small Wineries produce between 1,001 and 5,000 cases per year; Medium Wineries produce between 5001 and 25,000 cases per year; and Large Wineries produce in excess of 25,000 cases per year.

The current standards require that Small Wineries have a minimum parcel size of five acres with a minimum of one acre of planted vineyard. The proposed new standards would allow Boutique Wineries to be located on a two-acre parcel with a .4 acre of planted vineyard. Small Wineries must still be on a five-acre parcel minimum with one acre of vineyards; Medium Wineries must be on a 10-acre parcel minimum with two acres of vineyards; and Large Wineries must be on 20 acres minimum.

Under the current standards Small Wineries without on-site tasting rooms or retail sales are allowed in A-1, EA and TL zone districts and with and administrative permit in R-L, R-R and M-U. A use permit is required for all on-site tasting rooms and retail sales. Medium Wineries are allowed in A-1, EA, TL, C-M and M districts, but only with a use permit; and Large Wineries are allowed only in C-M and M zone districts with a use permit.

Under the proposed standards, Boutique and Small Wineries with on-site tasting rooms and retail sales, would be allowed in all eight zone districts with only administrative permits required for R-L, R-R, and M-U. Medium Wineries would also be allowed in all eight zone districts with administrative permits required for E-A and T-L and use permits for A-1, R-L, R-R, M-U. Large Wineries would still be restricted to C-M and M zone districts.

During the public comment time at the Planning Commission workshop, most speakers seemed to think revising the Winery Development Standards was a move in the right direction and some suggested additional improvements. Only Nels Larsen, who operates a small winery in the Manton Valley, said he believes the proposed standards were still too restrictive in requiring expensive use permits that were out of reach financially for small agricultural operators such as himself. He also said that of all the six Manton Valley wineries, his was the only one located in Shasta County; the other five are in Tehama County, which he said had much more “liberal” rules for winery development.

Simon said he would take a look a Tehama County’s standards and see what the differences are.