Two of the candidates for 3rd District Supervisor are hostile to charity fundraisers at county wineries.

When the winery ordinance was first proposed, several of us were apprehensive that the regulation of special events would adversely affect charitable events at wineries. We drafted a resolution asking the county not to count charity events at wineries as a special event. We submitted this resolution to the Solvang City Council, which approved it 3-1, and the Lompoc City Council approved it 5-0.

When we came to the Buellton City Council, it was tentatively approved 5-0 and deferred to the next meeting’s consent calendar for “minor” language edits. Unbeknown to us, by the day of the second Buellton meeting, the county CEO at that time sent a letter to the mayor of Buellton requesting no action be taken on the winery resolution. The county was conducting public hearings on the winery ordinance, the letter said, and our concerns would be addressed in those hearings.

When we showed up for the Buellton City Council meeting, we were surprised to see Bob Field, former 3rd District supervisor Gail Marshall, John Poitras, and Mark Oliver of the Valley Alliance, Donald Gallagher of Preservation of Agricultural Lands, and Joan Hartmann (who would be appointed by Supervisor Farr as the 3rd District’s planning commissioner). They had obviously been tipped off by someone.

After Buellton’s mayor paraphrased the county CEO’s “no need to act” letter, another councilmember pulled the winery ordinance from the Consent Calendar to the Regular Calendar. When the winery resolution was called, Field, Hartmann, and the rest of the anti-charity group all argued that the Buellton City Council should take no action because the county hearings would address charity fundraisers at wineries. We reiterated all the charity events at wineries that had benefited the Buellton Public Library, Buellton Senior Center, Red Cross, and so on. The Buellton City Council voted 3-2 to adopt the winery resolution we had proposed.

In the Lompoc Valley and the Santa Ynez Valley, there are 80,000-plus people. 52,000 of whom live in the cities of Buellton, Lompoc, and Solvang. These cities’ elected city councilmembers know how charity events at county wineries benefit their communities, and that is why they voted 11-3 to ask the county not to count charity events as special events for wineries.

Were we right to be apprehensive about the County Planners banning charity fundraisers at wineries? Unfortunately, yes. They agreed with Field and Hartmann to ban charity fundraisers at wineries.

The pending winery ordinance prohibits charity fundraisers at Tier A and B wineries, and it counts charity events as one of the permitted special events at Tier C wineries. Meanwhile those on agricultural land without a winery, such as horse and cattle ranchers, farmers, orchard growers, and vineyard owners, can have as many special events — charity and non-charity — as they want.

A vote for Field or Hartmann is a vote to ban charity fundraisers at wineries. If either Field or Hartmann is elected, it is just a matter of time before they will attempt to ban charity fundraisers at cattle and horse ranches, farms, orchards, and vineyards.

Stephen Pepe owns Clos Pepe Vineyards.


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