Placer County winery’s growth plans challenged

Community center debate over Lincoln-area Wise Villa reaches Placer supes on appeal
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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What: Wise Villa Winery permit appeal

When: 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 12

Where: County Administrative Center, 175 Fulweiler Ave., Auburn



The debate over the definition of what or what isn’t a “community center” is due to reach Placer County Board of Supervisors ears Tuesday.

Four groups – the Sierra Club, Save Placer Farmlands, the Public Interest Coalition and the Neighborhood Rescue Group – are appealing the county Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of a minor-use permit for the Wise Villa Winery Community.

Wise Villa owner Grover Lee is asking for the permit approval to be upheld to allow the 4100 Wise Road winery to play host to groups of up to 50 people four times a week for agricultural, vineyard or wine-food pairing educational events.

The permit would also allow hosting of larger events with 51 to 100 people twice a month within the existing tasting room and winery facilities.

With the question of allowing “community center” winery events on agriculturally zoned land in rural Placer County still not resolved, planning commissioners voted to limit the permit to two years.

Placer County Community Development/Resource Agency staff is supporting a rejection of the appeal and support of the Dec. 20 Planning Commission decision. In a report, Agency Director Michael Johnson said the “community center” definition was discussed at length and the commission “deliberated extensively” on it.

“The commission approved the minor-use permit for this project as a community center based on the evidence, discussion and reports before it, concluded that the proposed community center use was appropriate for this particular project and location and was consistent with the general plan and zoning,” Johnson said.

Carol Rubin, of Save Place Farmlands, said that what is being proposed at Wise Villa Winery – and two other rural locations, Rock Hill Winery and Gold Hill Gardens – are “private event centers.”

“Unfortunately, the zoning code does not include such a definition, which continues to lead to the mischaracterization of the proposed uses as being ‘community’ oriented,” Rubin said. “However, rather than holding applications for these mischaracterized facilities in abeyance until the code definitions can be corrected and standards written, the decision has been made at some level in Placer County administration to persist in pretending these facilities are public, community service establishments.”

The villa winery is located 3 miles northeast of Lincoln and 8 miles west of Auburn.

The Save Placer Farmlands group is asking that all community center applications be held until what it considers suitable definitions and standards can be written.