Setting in motion the first phase of a "monumental" change to the face of southwest Riverside County, the Board of Supervisors this week formally adopted a general environmental impact report and zoning ordinance tied to the Temecula Valley Wine Country Plan.
"Is this plan perfect? Probably not, but we'll see what things do and don't work," said board Chairman Supervisor Jeff Stone, who has spearheaded efforts to get the plan turned into a reality since winning election to represent the county's third district in 2004. "This is about creating jobs and making southwest Riverside County a world-class wine-growing destination."
The board in December tentatively approved a "programmatic," or general, EIR covering most aspects of the plan, as well as a zoning ordinance that identified specific locations throughout a 25,000-acre space that will be carved out for business and residential growth. County staff had to modify some elements at the board's direction, delaying formal approval until Tuesday.
"There'll be further changes as we move forward toward implementation," Stone said. "The board reserves the right to amend the plan. This is a monumental undertaking as we go from (42 vintners) to 105."
Stone noted that amendments to the plan since December included a provision mandating that amplification systems used to play music for weddings, parties and other events at wineries be restricted to indoors -- addressing concerns expressed by area homeowners' associations worried about preservation of residents' quality of life.
The environmental assessment addresses the overall feasibility of the plan. However, individual projects that arise within the wine country will still require separate hearings and approvals, according to Stone.
Only one property owner spoke against the general plan amendment, saying his 78-acre property off of Warren Road should not fall under any of the new zoning designations specified in the plan. He vowed to litigate.
As part of the wine country makeover, an unincorporated area with boundaries three miles north of the San Diego County line, just east of Temecula, south of Lake Skinner and northwest of Vail Lake, will be broken into four districts: equestrian, existing, residential and winery.
The area is home to 42 vintners.
Preparing the area for expansion will require new infrastructure, more government services and accommodations for existing residents and businesses -- all of which pose challenges, though most of them can be mitigated, according to a 700-page report prepared by the Transportation and Land Management Agency.
The board directed county staff to return with an update on plan implementation in one year.
— City News Service.