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Winery Use Permit Application Process

Permit and Resource Management Department Banner 750

A use permit is required for wineries and winery events. Use Permits are discretionary in nature and may require site specific studies conducted by qualified professionals related to:

  • biotic and cultural resources
  • water availability
  • noise
  • traffic
  • other issues

A Use Permit can only be approved if found to be consistent with:

  • the Sonoma County General Plan
  • applicable Area or Specific Plans
  • the Zoning Code

And that the use is compatible with the health, safety, and general welfare of the neighborhood. If approved, the Use Permit will include conditions of approval that must be met prior to vesting the use.  Once the conditions of approval have been met, the Use Permit is considered vested and will run with the land and benefit all subsequent property owners (unless the use is limited term).

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Steps for Winery Use Permit

  1. The Use Permit Application (Form PJR-010) with required documents is submitted to Permit Sonoma and the required initial fees are paid.
  2. Within three (3) days of application submittal, a Permit Sonoma planner is assigned to the project and a Welcome Letter is sent to the applicant informing him/her of their project planner.
  3. Since a Use Permit project is an At-Cost project, some of the initial fees paid are deposited into an Initial Deposit account associated with the project file number. Some of the fees (such as referral fees) are flat fees for services and are not part of the initial deposit.

    Within 30 days of the application submittal, per the At-Cost Agreement that is signed and submitted with the application, a “good faith cost estimate” is prepared. The cost estimate covers activities through project approval.  Within 30 days, the At-Cost cost estimate is sent to the applicant. The total amount of the cost estimate must be paid and deposited into the At-Cost Trust Account that has been set up and associated with the project number.

    Project costs are charged against the funds in the Trust Account and a monthly billing statement is sent to applicants notifying them of the status of the Trust Account funds and how staff has spent its time working on the project. When the funds in the Trust Account start getting low, additional funds must be deposited into the Trust Account. Permit Sonoma staff cannot work on a project unless there is a deposit on file in the account. The project is put on hold if a balance becomes due and remains until the balance due is paid and there is a deposit on file. The project planner will inform the applicant of the additional amount that needs to be deposited so work can resume.
  4. Referrals are sent to other divisions of Permit Sonoma, other county departments, and local agencies for review, comment, and condition(s). Within 30 days of the application submittal, a letter is sent informing the applicant if the project is complete for processing or incomplete. The items required to deem the application complete is provided in the letter. The project cannot be processed until all items have been received. Additional studies may be required to complete the Initial Study (IS) in accordance with the California Environmental quality Act (CEQA).
  5. When the required materials have been submitted, the project is deemed complete for processing.
  6. An environmental review document is prepared in accordance with CEQA to evaluate potential impacts. If all potential significant impacts can be mitigated, then a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) is made.
  7. The IS/MND goes out for a 30-day (sometimes 20-day) public review and comment period and a notice is posted on-site announcing the public review and comment period. After the closing of the public review and comment period, a notice is posted on site informing the public of the date of the project hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA). Notices are also sent in both cases to owners of the properties within 300 feet of the site. All interested persons are given the opportunity to comment on the proposed Use Permit at the public hearing.
  8. If the project is approved by the BZA, there is a ten (10) day appeal period for appeals to the Board of Supervisors with the payment of an appeal fee.
  9. For approved Use Permits, the applicant generally has 24 months to comply with the conditions of approval.