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A Case of Sour Grapes

Oct 4, 2019

An Agoura homeowner was sited for planting a vineyard without a required permit.

Regulators are putting the crush on one Agoura family wanting to enhance their property with a vineyard. In 2005, the homeowner planted over 30,000 square feet of grapes on their 1.6 acre property, located behind the gates in Medea Valley Estates. Unfortunately, the family didn’t obtain a permit to grow crops in a residential neighborhood. The amateur vintners, producing wine that is not intended for sale, didn’t know a permit is required.

A few years later, after complaints about pesticides and runoff from the property resulted in a Notice of Violation, the Medea Valley Estate owner is now applying for a Conditional Use Permit from the County of Los Angeles. Medea Valley Estates is a planned community governed by a Homeowner’s Association and is in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. A public hearing is set for March 6, 2013. Travis Sewards, the county planner handling the case, says that anyone who is thinking about planting a vineyard in a residential zone should observe the outcome of this hearing. Even if the homeowner has demonstrated that they conform to all environmental and grading standards and agrees to refrain from the use of pesticides in the future, the planning commission can decline to approve the vineyard.

Sewards expects to hear testimony from a handful of neighbors whose opposition has been fermenting. Sewards explained that if a property is over 5 acres and is in an agricultural zone, a permit would not be required. “Not yet.” With the popularity of vineyards increasing in the Santa Monica Mountain communities, environmentalists are soured on the increased clearing of natural chaparral, grading and terracing, and otherwise altering the natural viewshed and animal habitat. More regulations and restrictions are sure to germinate.

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