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Cambria winery, tasting room approved

After a contentious four-hour public hearing, the Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a winery and tasting room less than two miles up rural Santa Rosa Road from the Coast Unified High School in Cambria.

The vote to give the go-ahead to the Stolo Family Winery was 4-1, with Supervisor Bruce Gibson opposed and Supervisors Harry Ovitt, Jerry Lenthall, Katcho Achadjian and Jim Patterson in favor.

Some 35 residents stayed until 9 p.m. for the final decision. Fifteen people supported the proposal and 10 opposed it.

The meeting was an appeal of a county Planning Commission decision to approve the winery on Feb. 22.

Appellants were the Coast Unified School District; Greenspace — The Cambria Land Trust; and Leslie Taylor-Snow and Kirsten Fiscalini, members of local ranching families.

Appellants said they were concerned about the winery’s proposed location on a rural road, close to tributaries of Santa Rosa Creek and about a mile from Coast Union and Leffingwell high schools and a Head Start office. They cited possible effects on water and air quality, noise, and Santa Rosa Creek and wildlife habitat.

The appeals also claimed a commercial venture in the rural area could harm neighboring farmers and ranchers by increasing property values and corresponding property taxes and by lowering the quantity and quality of well water.

Gibson sought in vain to persuade other supervisors to approve the winery but reject the tasting room. He said he worried about traffic passing the school on its way to and from the winery.

Schools superintendent Pamela Martens made the same argument. Martens said many people used the school during and after school hours, and the winery might lead to “potentially impaired/drunk drivers” endangering children and others.

Patterson, too, initially questioned the winery, and sought a more in-depth analysis of traffic and water supply. But he failed to draw support from other supervisors, and in the end he voted to approve the project.

The board’s decision will next go to the state Coastal Commission.

Stolo’s project would add a winery and tasting room to an existing vineyard near Cambria, creating the area’s first grape-to-cash-register complex.

The proposed winery would put a tasting room, crush pad, other winery buildings and parking on 2 acres of a 53-acre ranch about 1.6 miles east of Cambria.

Harmony Cellars in Harmony, just south of Cambria, makes and sells wine, but the grapes are grown elsewhere.

The Stolo family says their proposed operation at 3770 Santa Rosa Creek Road would be “consistent with most winery applications in the county.”

Don Stolo wrote in an e-mail last week that this type of plan is “critical for the survival of small farmers … we must limit costs, and it is much more economical and cost-effective to have the combined operations on site.”

The family plans to complete the winery in three phases over about a decade.

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