After several years of dispute, a Lodi-area family’s plan to expand its operations will move forward, provided it removes part of its property from a statewide tax credit program.
The San Joaquin County board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon, after a three-hour discussion, voted 3-2 to allow Coldani Family Vineyards to expand its headquarters at the southeast corner of Thornton and Kingdon roads, as well as build a winery and olive mill. However, supervisors also approved a stipulation that requires the family cancel its participation in the California Conservation Act for the two acres of land where they plan to build the winery.
Supervisors Carlos Villapudua and Bob Elliot dissented, citing the stipulation was unnecessary.
“I think (the condition) just presents an excessive burden on the applicant,” Elliott said. “We don’t know how long it will take to get the cancellation, even if they put in a cancellation request tomorrow.”
The Williamson Act
The California Land Conservation Act of 1965 – more commonly referred to as the Williamson Act – allows local governments to enter into contracts with private landowners to restrict certain parcels of their property to agricultural or related use.
In return, landowners receive lower property tax assessments, based on farming and open space uses as opposed to full market value.
According to Kerry Sullivan, the county’s community development director, there are two ways landowners can cancel their participation in the Williamson Act.
One is to file a notice of non-renewal. The remaining term is allowed to lapse, and the contract is declared null and void at the end of the term. A contract typically consists of a 10-year term, she said.
Property tax rates gradually increase during the nonrenewal period until they reach the full market value of the land upon termination of the contract.
The second method is to file both a notice of non-renewal and a notice of cancellation. County staff has to approve the notices, then submit them to both the county planning commission and the board of supervisors.
Sullivan said the entire process could take as long as four months, and landowners are charged 12.5 percent of the full market value of their property for the cancellation.
The Coldanis have proposed building the project in three phases over five years.
The first phase includes building a 4,000-square-foot farm services headquarters, with space for office and warehouse storage.
The second phase involves building an 11,050-square-foot multipurpose building, which will house a wine and olive oil tasting room, bottling and crushing facility, commercial kitchen, and an olive mill and grape crushing facility, plus an 800-square-foot crushing pad.
The third phase will see the construction of a 1,500-square-foot packaging and dry storage building.
The Coldanis have also proposed 15 marketing events a year, with no more than 125 guests at each event.
The project will be about 1,500 feet northwest of Lima Family Ranch, much to the ire of owner Jack Hamm.
Dispute with neighbors
Steve Herum, an attorney representing Lima Family Ranch, urged the board on Tuesday to deny the project because marketing events were not allowed under the Williamson Act.
Michael Hakeem, an attorney representing applicant Steve Coldani, said the project is in complete compliance with the Williamson Act, as well as a county ordinance.
“Wineries are allowed under the Williamson Act,” Hakeem said. “Marketing events are allowed under your county ordinance, and they’re allowed as long as they are ancillary to wine making.”
Hakeem added that Herum’s concerns were discussed at a Dec. 4, 2014 planning commission meeting, all of which were rejected by the board when it approved the project.
Pat Patrick, president and CEO of the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce, said only three activities outside of farming are allowed under the Williamson Act: processing, storage and shipping.
However, he said wine tasting, which can be considered a marketing event, is an important component of the three activities allowed.
The location the Coldanis have chosen for the project – which is visible from Interstate 5 – would also help promote agritourism in the county, Patrick said.
“If you drive along I-5 from Lathrop to Stockton and into Sacramento County, there’s no indication we have an agritourism industry here,” he said.
Supervisor Chuck Winn expressed concern over potential non-compliance with the Williamson Act. He proposed approving the project, but added the condition the Coldanis remove the winery land from the Williamson Act.
“Along the way during this project, someone needs to make a decision as to what the applicant wants,” he said. “Do you want the benefits of the Willimason Act, or do you want to hold marketing events? My concern is that we’re continuing down a path that may not be the most beneficial.”
Contact reporter Wes Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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