Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A San Francisco couple who want to build a winery and creamery on Sonoma Mountain Road overlooking Bennett Valley will have to undergo a significantly more extensive planning and environmental review process under terms reached in a settlement deal between the county and neighbors who opposed the project.
The deal stems from a lawsuit filed by a group of neighbors after the Board of Supervisors last October approved plans by Nate and Lauren Belden to construct a 10,000-case-a-year winery and cheese production shop.
In the settlement completed last week, county officials agreed to conduct a full environmental review, a time-consuming and expensive step for the Beldens. At least one supervisor says that review was warranted all along.
“I saw obvious flaws in the technical analyses of traffic and water impacts,” said board Chairwoman Susan Gorin, who represents the area and was the sole vote against the Belden Barns Winery last year. “I’m very concerned about the number of events approved and unlimited tasting room hours — it’s a very hazardous road, especially mixed with alcohol.”
Under terms spelled out in the settlement deal, the county is scrapping a determination concluding that all impacts from the winery and creamery on nearby Bennett Valley neighbors, including traffic, noise and water resources, were properly studied. For the project to go forward, the Beldens must pay for the county to produce a full environmental impact report, according to County Counsel Bruce Goldstein.