The Portola Valley Planning Commission is studying several questions to determine whether it should approve an amendment to a conditional use permit that would allow a wine tasting room at Spring Ridge Winery, also known as Neely Wine, on Portola Road.
The application by the Neely family, which owns the winery, has inspired opposition from some neighbors who say they want to preserve the "rural character" of Portola Valley and are concerned about potential problems with noise, traffic and other issues that the tasting room might generate.
The 228-acre property could also be sold for housing development, according to Portola Valley Planning Director Laura Russell.
The Neely family's latest modification to the proposal that would address residents' objections specifies a reservation system that would limit wine tasting and wine sales to 16 hours per weekend, which would include Fridays, and limit the number of visitors to 12 per hour during daytime hours.
Weekday wine tasting and sales would be by appointment, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and limited to 30 visitors per day.
There would be six standard distribution days and three special-release distribution days per year in which wine club members would pick up their wine at the site, with a limit, respectively, of 150 guests and 100 guests . There would also be one community event, where amplified music would not be allowed.
The current revised proposal maintains that all vehicles traveling to the site on routine daily visits and distribution days can be accommodated by the 32 parking spaces already on site, along with 13 additional gravel parking spaces.
The Planning Commission on Feb. 5 provided feedback to town planning staff about seven points, including whether the proposed tasting room is properly located in relation to the community as a whole; whether the size of the site is adequate for the proposed use; whether the site is adequate in size; how the tasting room would affect abutting properties; and whether the property can be safe from storm water runoff, soil erosion, earthquakes and other hazards.
Other issues include whether the tasting room would be in harmony with the purpose and intent of the town's general plan, and whether it would meet a need in town and satisfy the commission's interest in having a majority of the clientele come from Portola Valley.
The commission and town staff will prepare findings on these questions before the commission considers the amendment to the winery's permit. There is no formal timeline for the commission's deliberations, according to Lucy Neely, the winery's marketing director.
"The question is whether the findings can grant the conditional use permit," Neely said. "If at a future meeting they approve our request, we would have our permit to change how we're operating."
The reaction of the commission on Feb. 5 to the proposal's compliance with the criteria seemed to be positive in general.
Commission Chair Jon Goulden indicated that he thinks the tasting room would benefit the effort of the town to maintain its rural character rather than detract from it.
"How are we going to stay rural?" Goulden asked. "We can have a winery, and it feels like something that would help the town in the long run."
Commissioner Nicholas Targ also registered a positive response in addressing the question of whether the tasting room conforms with the town's general plan, which emphasizes "rural character."
"Rural doesn't mean pretty," Targ said. "It means rural, including agriculture."