Winery and Vineyard Land Use Issues
Issues Surrounding Land Use Regulationso Can I plant a vineyard?
o Can I site my winery on this property?
o Can I build one or more homes?
o Can I have a tasting room or do onsite sales?
o Can I host events such as weddings?
o Is the property under a Williamson Act Contract?
o Do I have adequate access or easements to my property?
o Do I need permits to build structures or roads?
o How many Certificates of Compliance (CC) does my property have?
o Can I divide my property?
o What is the process to obtain another CC for my property?
Three Tiered Permitting for Wineries, Tasting Rooms and EventsWineries are permitted in the Agricultural zones of Santa Barbara County. Since July of 2004, the permit process for the siting of wineries has been streamlined. This process has become know as the Three Tiered Process. This is because it divides wineries into three tiers or categories based upon their size. For the first two tiers of facilities, owners are no longer required to go in front of the planning commission.
Tier I Winery: For a Tier I winery, the county staff is directed to give a permit to wineries that have no tasting rooms and produce fewer than 20,000 cases of wine in less than 20,000 square feet of building space. Wineries within this category are eligible to hold four special events with up to 150 attendees. However, wineries within all of these tiers are still regulated by the planning and development land use plan requirements. These require the obtaining of a Land Use Permit prior to building a winery.
On-Site & Internet Sales in Santa Barbara CountySales of wine produced at the winery or by the winery owner are allowed in the tasting rooms. Further, the sale of souvenirs, clothing bearing the wineries logo and other wine related products are allowed. Along with the sale of wine over the internet, these on site sales of winery products can be some of the most profitable, because they remove the middle man between the winery and the consumer.
The Supreme Court recently decided the case of Granholm v. Heald. In this decision, the Court struck down the laws of the states of Michigan and New York, due to their restrictions on the direct sale of wine by out of state producers. While this landmark decision bodes well for winemakers hoping to sell directly to all states, it does not remove the ability of individual states to regulate the direct sale of wine. Adequate and up to date analysis of each states regulations are required, prior to attempting to ship wine directly to purchasers in other states.
Williamson Act ContractsIn order to reduce taxes upon their lands, many owners of agriculturally zoned lands enter into land conservation contracts regulated by state legislation named the Williamson Act. These contracts require that the lands use be compatible with its agricultural surroundings and limit the development of the land under the Uniform Rules for Agricultural Preserves. If a property is under a Williamson Act Contract, it will subject to the Agricultural Preserve Rules, as well as the agricultural zoning rules.
Dwellings under the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Preserve RulesAlthough a few vineyards may be located within incorporated cities, most are located in the unincorporated county areas. Because these areas are also predominantly agricultural lands, the land is often under an agricultural preserve contract or Williamson Act Contract. The siting of dwellings on land covered by an agricultural preserve contract is subject to a host of limitations.
A principal dwelling is the primary inhabited structure and may generally be built upon the land. However, the dwelling, the access roads and any landscaping may not occupy more than 2 acres or, if smaller, 3% of the property. These 2 acres are also considered the building envelope.
In lots bigger than 40 acres, a residential agricultural unit may be allowed. While a residential agricultural unit may not be sold, it can consist of another free standing structure used for rental income or housing of family or employees.