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Charity Fundraisers at County Wineries Not Opposed

A Response to Stephen Pepe’s Opinion Piece


I’m writing to correct Steve Pepe’s gross mischaracterization of my position regarding charitable events at wineries. In fact, I have never voted or advocated for banning charitable events at wineries or anywhere else. Having worked for many charitable organizations, I know first-hand how important major fundraisers are to their annual budgets. I greatly appreciate the significant contributions made by charities and believe our county’s large number of charitable organizations is a measure of the vibrancy of our community life.

In 2012, the County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to update the County Wine Ordinance (and that process is still ongoing). Before the county had developed any proposal, Pepe circulated a resolution to engage the cities and charities in his crusade to urge the county to allow increased special events at wineries by linking events to a charity. When Pepe brought the item to the Buellton City Council on April 26, 2012, I voiced my strong support for charitable events, including those held at wineries. However, I also asked the council to consider the premature timing of the resolution without any county proposal or analysis to react to. I illustrated this by pointing to the wording of Pepe’s resolution, which used an overly broad definition of “charity” to include business organizations and political groups.

I also stated that the county needed to consider what locations would be allowed to host such special and charitable events: “While wine tasting events — with more traffic, loud bands and bright lights – may not be a problem on Hwy 246, they may be on Santa Rosa Road or Ballard Canyon, neighborhoods along winding country roads used by cyclists.” I concluded by asking the Buellton City Council to “get a seat at the table and learn more about the various proposals and their impacts on the city’s interests before passing judgment.”

To be clear, as a private citizen and as a member of S.B. County’s Planning Commission, I have consistently and wholeheartedly supported agriculture. The growing of grapes is a major contributor to the county’s economic prosperity. I have consistently voted to allow the processing of grapes and olives on agricultural lands as a means to create jobs and profits here in our county, and I support wine tasting and events as a means to market wines and promote an appreciation of terrior, the special qualities of place that contribute to a wine’s distinction.

I am convinced that we can identify and implement best practices of other regions to foster charitable wine tasting and special events while avoiding unreasonable burdens on residents and neighborhoods. In fact, just last week, the County Board of Supervisors upheld the Planning Commission’s approval of a winery on Santa Rosa Road in which I had led the efforts to approve the winery and tasting room, along with 32 special events and private parties to be held each year — a resolution agreed to by both the vintner and the neighbors.

Joan Hartmann is a candidate for 3rd District Supervisor.



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