Supervisors recommend denial of General Plan Amendments
On April 28th, with a packed room of Wine Corridor supporters, the Board of Supervisors held a hearing on the settlement and proposed General Plan amendments related to the lawsuits filed in 2010 by Landwatch Monterey County and Open Monterey Project.
With one exception, all speakers who made public comment urged denial of the changes to policies relating to the Winery Corridor, slopes, and wildlife corridors. Many good examples were given of the amount of compromise reached to formulate the General Plan policies and the hours of meetings involved over the 10 year process, including personal stories of involvement in the process.
Community leaders from hospitality, agriculture, business, labor, real estate, social justice, and city government spoke against the changes proposed by these amendments. The word to Supervisors: enough is enough!
Interestingly, no one from the plaintiff organizations made public comment in support of their settlement or the amendments.
After public comment, Supervisor and Board Chair Salinas stated he could not support the settlement and amendments because of the limitations on economic development in his district.
Supervisor Potter made a motion for an intent to deny the settlements and amendments and for Staff to return to the Board in two weeks and report with any progress of re-negotiations with the two plaintiff organizations.
Supervisor Armenta seconded the motion and made comment that there are positive opportunities for our County when compared to the Napa region, but that we don't have to be the same because we already have policies in place that offer protections for traffic, water, and wildlife. "We can't strangulate this County," he stated strongly.
Supervisor Parker expressed her concern for the County's liability should the lawsuits go to trial and negative decisions prevail, and that she thinks the General Plan EIR is flawed and originally voted against approval of the EIR in 2010 due to those flaws.
Supervisor Phillips stated that the decision is not even close! The proposed amendments are designed to gut the Winery Corridor and that the plaintiffs "...live by litigation and that's how they support themselves."
Supervisor Salinas stated he would support the motion "...because it includes the word deny."
Put to a vote, the decision was 4:1 to come back before Supervisors on May 12th, and if no movement has been made in re-negotiating the settlement and amendments, then the denial will be considered again by the Board of Supervisors.
Community leaders were calling for a rejection of the proposed amendments to the 2010 General Plan that will impact and limit development of the Winery Corridor in the Salinas Valley. This public process is part of the settlement process for lawsuits initiated by Landwatch Monterey County and The Open Monterey Project against the General Plan update.
Specifically, these proposed changes will impact the ability to further develop the Winery Corridor (both new and expanded vineyards and wineries) because the policies will be altered to remove essentially all hospitatly possibilities for new wineries. The Genearl Plan policies adopted in 2010 support a mutual effort by the Hospitality and Agriculture industries to provide additional benefits to the County through increased tourism and economic activities.
Additional impacts surround the proposed illustrative wildlife corridor maps that may ultimately hinder the abilty of vineyards to perform routine and regular farming activities, including harvesting, as well as development of new vineyards.
Both the Monterey County Economic Development Commission and the Latino Leadership Coaltion identified the Winery Corridor as the prime economic development priority to our County, with an estimated $1 billion in possible future contributions to the local economy. These expanded economic contributions would come from increased tourism, value-added wine processing, and both up-and-downstream supply chain impacts. Winery development will bring additional high paying jobs to economically challenged communities throughout our County.
Our 2010 General Plan took over a decade to develop and approve: policies in support of streamlining Winery Corridor development were agreed upon after considerable discusion and compromise amongst stakeholders involved.
If Winery Corridor policies are ammended as proposed by the lawsuit setltements, the streamlined process for development approval is removed and all projects will take on the same parameters as any other development proposal. This essentially wipes out the economic advantages afforded wineries for development of vineyards, tasting room facilities, and hospitality opportunities. Many artisan wineries would be unable to afford a lengthy permit application process and would seek other locations where public polcies support these types of development.
Beyond the permitting issue, the definitions of adjunct uses by wineries will be removed from the General Plan allowed activities of land use in the agricutlural zone and will cause more friction when winery development is proposed.
The following public agencies and entities have adopted resolutions supporting the existing 2010 General Plan policies, as adopted, related to the Winery Corridor:
- Monterey County Planning Commission
- Monterey County Mayors Association
- Monterey County Agriculture Advisory Committee
- City of Gonzales City Council
- City of Greenfield City Council
- City of King City Council
- City of Salinas City Council
- City of Sand City County
- City of Soledad City Council