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Temecula Wine Country Plan Approved By County Supervisors Paves Way For Growth

The area is currently home to 42 vintners. County officials foresee as many as 170 being established in the coming decades.

Under the plan, Wine Country will be broken into four districts: equestrian, existing, residential and winery.  Patch file photo.
Under the plan, Wine Country will be broken into four districts: equestrian, existing, residential and winery. Patch file photo.

Updated at 9:48 p.m. Dec. 3; originally posted at 6:50 p.m. Dec. 3

In what was described as a "historic" vote, the Board of Supervisors today approved the establishment of zoning standards expected to define the shape and character of a roughly 19,000-acre swath of Riverside County -- officially known as the Temecula Valley Wine Country -- for decades to come.

"This is a wonderful jewel within our county that we have to preserve and protect," said Supervisor Jeff Stone, whose district encompasses the area and who was a driving force behind the concept.

"This is a blueprint for a vision I've had now for many, many years. There's no perfect plan. But we've put forth our best effort for a successful wine country ... and a document that will survive the test of time."

The board voted 4-0 -- with Supervisor Marion Ashley departing the meeting early to attend to other business -- to amend the southwest county region general plan by incorporating new zoning designations and to tentatively certify an environmental impact report. The action followed 3 1/2 hours of public testimony during which around 40 speakers addressed the board.

There was no outright opposition to the Temecula Valley Wine Country Plan in its entirety, though a number of speakers objected to a trails map that proposed a network of bicycle, equestrian and hiking paths that traversed private land in some places.

"We're talking about property rights. This is not just about someone riding a horse on a nice sunny day," said a Citrus Heights resident who identified herself as Laura. "We've worked hard to own land around Temecula. This trail system would affect each of the parcels we possess."

Said Richard Bowman: "I don't object to neighbors hiking and biking near my house, but I do mind strangers coming by who are out for a day of entertainment. It would create a nuisance to our privacy and lifestyle. I don't want businesses making money at the expense of our privacy."

Though Stone underscored the fact that the trails component was only conceptual and would require additional hearings, he ultimately shared residents' concerns about private property interests being compromised and took the proposal out of the wine country plan.

"This is a historic day in Riverside County," Stone said. "I've heard my constituents loud and clear. I understand the issues of concern."

Several speakers told the board they were unhappy with restrictions on the dimensions of their buildings.

Jim Carter, owner of South Coast Winery & Resort on Rancho California Road, said a zoning limit under the wine country plan would prevent him from adding a third floor to his main building.

Stone added an exemption to the plan that would permit property owners in zones reserved for commercial development to have higher edifices -- as long as they have a "terrace design" that fits with the landscape.

"I don't want anything like a Holiday Inn Express in wine country," Stone said. "There shouldn't be grandiose buildings. People should be focused on the beautiful vines."

During its Sept. 24 meeting, the board suspended action on the wine country makeover after hearing from residents concerned about everything from the definition of a vineyard to the amplification systems that might be allowed on wine club properties.

The supervisors sent the plan back to the Riverside County Planning Commission for further vetting and refinement, after which the county's Park District Advisory Committee weighed in, culminating in a few modest revisions.

According to the county Transportation and Land Management Agency, among the more substantive changes was a request by nine property owners to remove 13 parcels totaling 192 acres from the project area, while a dozen property owners in possession of 262 acres asked to be included.

Under the wine country plan, conceived in 2008, 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. County officials foresee as many as 170 being established in the coming decades.

Kimberly Adams with the Temecula Valley Convention & Visitors' Bureau described the wine country as the "largest grape-growing Appalachia in Southern California."

"Last year, we generated $600 million in economic activity," Adams said. "We support over 5,000 jobs. It's a thriving industry."

Supervisor John Tavaglione said implementing the wine country plan was "critical to the success" of the county overall.

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 environmental impact report prepared for the board.

The EIR noted multiple "significant" consequences arising from the wine country plan, including a reduction of farmland, increased noise, lower air quality from grading, excavation and other construction activity, as well as higher traffic volume and more roadway congestion.

Additional EIRs will have to be drafted as commercial and residential projects permitted within the wine country are brought before the board.

According to Stone, modifications can be made to the plan in eight-year cycles, beginning in 2016.--City News Service

sandy duncan December 04, 2013 at 09:26 AM
They need to fix traffic problems first..only 3 exits in Temecula and it takes over 30 minutes to get off freeway. Now on Temecula Parkway which is already congested all these apts are going up behind home deport. I'm beginning not to like Temecula anymore just because of the traffic. It's losing that small city atmosphete
JJ Mclure December 04, 2013 at 09:40 AM
they are fecal freaks
Chester December 04, 2013 at 10:15 AM
"This is a wonderful jewel within our county that we have to preserve and protect," said Supervisor Jeff Stone. Unless I'm missing something here, this will open up the floodgates to developers and create even more of a traffic/alcohol mess than we currently have. Stone has a huge ego and will do anything to bring "his" vision to fruition.
liz pratt December 04, 2013 at 10:55 AM
This is about revenues and not about making wine country a place for the residents. Wonder what kind of payoff Jeff Stone gets from wine country, obviously he is getting something from South Coast Winery.
Aron Queeg December 04, 2013 at 01:09 PM
You have opened the gates of hell!
Karate Kid December 05, 2013 at 11:19 AM
Geez that didn't take long, the proposal came out on Monday, and approved by Thursday? If only our political system worked this efficiently when it comes to important issues. Going to add hundreds of drug plantations out there in Wine and Drive Country? Wine, Dine, and Drive country? Sounds like a full scale drug operation, grapes will make you drive like apes. This Stone guy is a farse and so is The City of Temecula for not disclosing info like the beating in Old Town on Saturday night sooner. The City of Temecula is interested in protecting business profits, and more specifically alcohol related business profits. Why add a university when we can offer our youth alcohol and casinos? At least Pechanga gives back, its extremely rare to hear about the wineries contributing to this community, they don't donate to local schools or anything. Just wear a helmet when you drive down Rancho California road it may save your life!
Artemis Gordon December 05, 2013 at 12:11 PM
Bowmans comment about sacrificing privacy and businesses making money at the expense of our peace and quiet. Hot Air Balloons! These unregulated gypsies float 50' over rural homes, run stock through fences, they actuall cut fences when they illegally land on private property in wine country. Makes Me Sick! They do summer launches starting at 5:30 am with generators, giant fans then the horrendously loud propane blowers and WE SUFFER while they make a buck at our expense. Don't even get me started on the 500cc dirt bikes racing all day long and their massive plumes of valley fever silica clouds wafting over our homes. A POX on all y'all!
Karate Kid December 05, 2013 at 01:02 PM
Just adding more comments so maybe someone checkout the comments in this section. Funny how a HUGE story like this is hiding below the Metal Mullisha and homes for sale, stocking your pantry, and holiday gifts, but Im not surprised at the journalistic integrity of AOL, I mean The Patch. The Patch likes to delay stories, scew the facts, show pictures when it is conveinent for them, hide pictures when it is conveinent for them, and they are attached at the hip with the City of Temecula and local businesses, in particular Old Town and the Wineries.
Karate Kid December 05, 2013 at 01:08 PM
Knowing The Patch though..., this article will be down in no time, censorship at its finest, dont report the facts and delete any user comments that speak truth, then make the story disappear. Thats the 1, 2, 3 approach that AOL takes. Jeff Stone has The Patch on speed dial, and he wants this article removed immediately! So get this story out of the spot light as soon as possible, you are making Temecula and Wino Country look bad.
Karate Kid December 05, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Its official The Patch officially removed the article from the main page. It's 1:00 PM the article was barely up for 4 hours before being taken down, you have to dig for it. What a shame, The Patch puts up some dumb regarding Iran that we can catch ANY of the mainstream media outlets that repeat the same mind controlled stuff. The Patch is a disgrace.
Karate Kid December 05, 2013 at 04:10 PM
some dumb article regarding Iran that we can watch on CNN MSNBC FOX or any of those fake news channels. "Silence is betrayal."- MLK

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