Despite three years of planning, traffic studies, and property enhancements, the proposed TTT Winery on Roblar Avenue in the Santa Ynez Valley was denied by the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission earlier this month in a 3-2 vote, so the owner is now appealing that rejection to the Board of Supervisors for a final review.
The appeal, which was filed on March 15, points to the published environmental report to argue that the project — a 4,000-case-per-year winery with a tasting room and 10 special events on a five-acre parcel — was denied for reasons that are “inaccurate or erroneous.” The reasons cited by the Planning Commission — as guided by the planning staff, which recommended denial — include neighborhood incompatibility, improper setbacks, and the notion that the tasting room would be a primary rather than secondary use of the property, which is discouraged in the current winery ordinance.
“They should have let us know these were issues earlier in the project, not three years into it,” said Steve Martin, who is representing the owner, Tom Stull, of Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. “My client feels that the county is going to be liable for damages if this goes through.” Martin said that Stull has spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on improvements to the property, believing that planting grapes would make his plan qualify under the winery ordinance, and has hired Richard Monk as an attorney in the event that the supervisors deny the project. Martin believes that TTT is caught in the ongoing winery ordinance update process, but says that holding existing projects to any future changes would not be legal.
Some neighbors of the proposed TTT Winery have argued that the project would have dramatic effect on their livelihoods, given that they are in the “inner-rural” part of the Santa Ynez Valley, where residential density is higher than in other parts of the valley. They claim that the nearby Bridlewood and Roblar wineries already have negative impacts, although a worst case traffic study for TTT showed that there wouldn’t be any significant problems even if all the wineries had major events on the same day. That said, some in the winemaking community have been less than enthusiastic over the project, as they fear the precedent that could be set if a five-acre parcel — which is quite small for Santa Barbara County’s historic winery standards — is allowed to become a winery and tasting room.