Temecula Valley vintners are asking the Riverside County planning commission to protect the region against land development, they feel isn't wine-friendly. Today a public hearing addressed a change to the Temecula Valley Wine Country Community Plan, that's pitting a proposed school by church-goers, against grape growers.
26 years ago, Phil Baily planted his first vine, making him one of the pioneers of the Temecula wine country. He says, "Yes,when we first moved to the wine country, Temecula didn't even have a stop light."
Now, he's addressing the Rverside County Planning Commission, in an effort to preserve vineyard land, after Calvary Chapel proposed to build a school, something he calls a highly urban use. Baily says, "The bottom line is that a school and daycare center is incompatible with the rural agriculture ambiance that we are trying to foster."
Attorney, Michael Newcomb represents a number of the vintners and even owns his own vineyard. He says the agricultural zone has been carefully crafted to promote agriculture and what the church is proposing doesn't fit. He says, "Now it wants to add a school and under the existing rules it can't. So, what it wants to do is basically poke a big hole in the plan to allow all churches to come in and all schools to come in and it basically destroys the plan."
Church parishoners we talked to disagree. Paul Christsman says, "In 1999 there was a very quiet addition to the land use element that excluded churches. I think that's improper. We actually think that's improper. We actually think that's against our religious freedoms. This really doesn't need to go to a religious level. It's really a building and zoning issue."
But vineyard owners want absolutely no incompatible use to exist. Baily says, "A major tweaking, saying add churches and schools to the whole thing just means you go back to square one with environmental impact reports would have to be redone."
Baily calls the area a unique gem, but fragile and Temecula Valley Winegrowers are determined to protect the 40-odd wineries one grapevine at a time. Baily says, "We're the only real wine country left in Southern California."