Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Napa County Board of Supervisors began grappling Tuesday with the politically contentious issue of how to better regulate winery expansion to limit the congestion that critics contend has turned this agricultural valley into an overrun tourist playground.
The board started to debate proposals put forth by a 17-member citizen advisory committee and further recommendations by the county’s Planning Commission, as well as an analysis of the items by county staff. Overall, 22 public hearings have been held in the past nine months.
Board members did not vote on any regulations, but instructed staff to further work on the proposals. Supervisors hope to adopt new rules in the next year that will bring some clarity to the future of the wine industry, which generated $1.6 billion in visitor spending last year while snarling the county’s planning process in time-consuming arguments over winery permits. It will continue the debate Jan. 5.
The controversy in Napa echoes an ongoing debate across California’s Wine Country. Sonoma County has formed a task force to study the problems associated with winery development and events, while other counties, such as Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, also are tackling related issues on wine tourism.