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Take it inside: SLO Wine plant is given 30 days to cease outdoor operations affecting its neighbors

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Residents of the Villa Fontana condo complex on Fontana Avenue and Loma Bonita Drive near downtown San Luis Obispo have scored a victory in their year-long battle to rid their neighborhood of stale wine and sulfur fumes which some say are making them sick.

For two years, The Workshop—formerly known as SLO Wine Studio—has operated on the 2800 block of South Higuera Street next to the complex, manufacturing and bottling wine for various local vineyards. Though the facility was originally permitted to conduct business inside the building, complaints have driven numerous visits from code enforcement officers, who found working processing equipment outside, some of it as close as 30 feet away from the nearest Villa Fontana neighbor.

Officers also noted other violations, including the facility operating outside of permitted business hours, failure to enroll in the city’s Industrial Waste Program, the accumulation of grape waste, and fire code violations. For roughly a year, the city has been haggling with the owners to correct the problems, but nothing has been done, according to neighbors and city records.

But on Nov. 15, the owners went before the city at an administrative hearing, the first step to get them to correct the violations before going before the planning commission, and possibly the City Council. According to Deputy Community Development Director Doug Davidson, the hearing officer ruled that The Workshop was causing harm to the health of the neighborhood, and ordered that operations—including all wastewater treatment, hulling, and processing—be taken inside a building. They’d also have to apply for all remaining building permits to submit for review within 30 days. In addition, the hours of operation are restricted to between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Only ancillary storage would be allowed outside.

“It went completely favorably,” Tauria Linala, president of the Villa Fontana Homeowners Association, told New Times. “Our neighborhood was pleased because the city ruled that the winery is in fact harmful to the health and safety of our neighborhood. We were elated.”

The operators, however, have until Nov. 25 to appeal the decision to the planning commission. The co-owner of the facility, Mike Kyle, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Linala said that should they appeal the decision, the neighborhood would continue the fight all the way to the City Council.

“But if they began truly operating completely indoors, I think we would be happy, in my opinion,” she said.

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