Winery Events Ordinance
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on March 14, 2023, to consider adopting the Winery Events Ordinance. All interested persons are invited to attend and provide comments.
The Ordinance defines key terms and sets standards for winery events and standard daily operations (winery visitor-serving activities). Operating Standards for sizing, hours of operation, third-party rentals, on-site parking, food service, traffic management, and compliance with General Plan noise limits are included.
The ordinance would apply to new and modified use permit applications for winery visitor-serving uses in agricultural zoning districts outside the Coastal Zone.
The wine industry and tourism play an important role in Sonoma County’s culture and economy. However, an over-concentration of winery events can negatively impact surrounding communities. Permit Sonoma seeks to balance these interests in new regulations for winery events.
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 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.
Board of Supervisor Meeting November 2022
On November 1, 2022, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing and motioned to continue the item to a date uncertain. The Board directed staff to return with a revised Ordinance that responds to Board concerns regarding clarity and how the ordinance distinguishes standard daily operations from events. During the public hearing, the Board made preliminary edits to staff’s original recommendation for definitions and standards.
Documents from the meeting in PDF Format:
- Winery Events Ordinance Summary
- Attachment 1 Ordinance
- Attachment 2 Planning Commission Resolution -June 7, 2022
- Attachment 3 Winery Events Ordinance Comparison Table
- Attachment 4 Planning Commission Staff Report -June 3, 2021
- Attachment 5 October 2016 Board of Supervisors Resolution of Intent
- Attachment 6 Related General Plan Agricultural Resource Element Policies
- Attachment 7 Public Comments for Planning Commission Hearing
- Staff PowerPoint
Planning Commission Public Hearings June 2021 - June 2022
On June 7, 2022, the Planning Commission voted 5-0 in favor of recommending that the Board of Supervisors adopt the proposed draft Winery Events Ordinance.
Review Planning Commission meeting materials and watch videos of the virtual Planning Commission public hearings held on the draft Winery Events Ordinance:
- June 3, 2021, Planning Commission meeting
- February 17, 2022, Planning Commission meeting (continued from June)
- May 19, 2022, Planning Commission meeting (continued from February)
- June 7, 2022, Planning Commission Meeting
February 18, 2021 Workshop Video
Watch a video of a virtual public workshop regarding the development of the draft County Winery Events Ordinance.
February 18, 2021 Workshop Comment Summary
View the comment summary of the virtual public workshop breakout rooms regarding the development of the draft County Winery Events Ordinance.
Local Areas of Concentration
Meanwhile, local advisory groups associated with the local areas of concentration are setting their own criteria for evaluating winery event applications:
In the three local areas of concentration, Permit Sonoma updated technical studies related to noise and traffic:
- Dry Creek Valley & Westside Road Capacity Threshold Study (PDF 29.1 MB)
- Sonoma Valley Capacity Threshold Study (PDF 13.4 MB)
- Background Conditions Report (PDF 5.1 MB)
- Recommendations for General Noise Standards for Winery Events (PDF 73.3 kB)