On February 14th the Board of Supervisors voted to adopt the amended special exception application for Barrel Oak. The vote was 4 to 1 with Supervisor Holder Trumbo voting in opposition.
Two options were before the Board of Supervisors on February 14th: the original resolution to approve the maximum number of events and operation hours allowed by the winery ordinance and an alternate resolution to approve activities and hours of operation beyond the standards set forth in the winery ordinance.
We support the original special exception that was unanimously recommended for approval by the Planning Commission. The original Special Exception would be in compliance with the Winery Ordinance, allowing Barrel Oak to host up to 25 events per year and operate regular business hours for tastings between 10am to 6pm to supplement the farm income.
However, PEC has major concerns about the alternate resolution which circumvents the standards laid out in the Winery Ordinance and would allow Barrel Oak to go well beyond the number of events and hours of operation allowed. Under the alternate resolution, Barrel Oak can expand beyond the current structures without coming back in to amend their special exception and they never have to renew their Special Exception which would ordinarily be required every 3 to 5 years. Due to the highly controversial nature of large scale event venues in agricultural areas and potential impacts from noise, traffic, lighting, etc., a specified time period must be required. Without a specified time period the burden of monitoring compliance with the conditions set forth falls completely onto adjacent landowners.
The Barrel Oak operation has historically pushed the boundaries of what they are allowed to do. Currently, they are operating Oak Hill, a residence, as a restaurant/reception hall without appropriate permitting to do so. The alternate resolution is a backroom agreement between the County and Barrel Oak and signals to others that they may get more permissive special exception conditions if they demonstrate their unwillingness to comply with zoning and threaten litigation. We are concerned that the Board is creating the perception that the threat of litigation can result in preferential treatment and private negotiations.
The alternate resolution was only made available the night before the hearing, allowing only 24 hours for citizens to review and develop comments. This undermines the painstaking process that went into developing the new winery ordinance and the planning commission’s recommendation to approve a number of events and operating hours within what is allowed by the Winery Ordinance. This lack of transparency negates a true and fair public hearing. PEC has significant concern about this type of backroom deal being adopted that disregards public input and established zoning ordinances.