Winery Appeal Turns Tense

And County Decides to Continue Chumash Negotiations

A smackdown between Bob Field ​— ​who’s running for 3rd District supervisor ​— ​and 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino took center stage Tuesday over the appeal of a proposed winery and tasting room on Santa Rosa Road in the Santa Ynez Valley. Field, who retained environmental attorney Marc Chytilo, argued staff had “cooked the books” in their determination that the 13,960-square-foot project was in compliance with county codes related to the allowable type of events, number of events, and parking, among other things. The tasting room, he contended, would become “functionally a bar,” posing car-accident risks and contributing to a booming wine industry he claims strains the area’s rural character.

The supes unanimously denied the appeal ​— ​but not before Lavagnino blasted Field for asserting that staff distorted the facts. He also questioned Field’s motivation, considering he lives 30 miles away from the property; he essentially called Field a hypocrite for advertising that his house ​— ​on the market until recently ​— ​could function as a winery. “We’ve spent thousands and thousands [of dollars] on this appeal,” Lavagnino charged, saying no neighbors opposed the project and that even the Planning Commission ​— ​“where most projects go to die” ​— ​approved it by a 5-0 vote. “The [appeal] process needs to be modified,” he said. “We should never have to deal with this again.”

Field did not comment; however, in an interview, he argued the ad described a small-scale winery ​— ​decidedly not public wine tasting or pig roasts or drive-in movies. “And here I didn’t even complain about events and wine tasting. It’s just about how much.” He said he has not decided if he will appeal in court.

Also in a dramatic hearing Tuesday, the supervisors decided to continue negotiating publicly with Chumash tribal leaders after a cooling-off period during the summer break. Currently, the sticking point surrounds a waiver of the sovereign immunity; ​for the county, such a waiver is necessary for any agreement to be enforceable. Chumash chair Vincent Armenta agreed but argued the county should sign the same waiver. “If we’re going to be exposed, you’re going to be exposed,” he said. Attorneys were instructed to hash out the issue before negotiations resume.

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