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LA MESA -- La Mesa residents may soon be able to legally go into the wine or beer making business.
The council Tuesday agreed to consider changing arcane zoning laws that had prohibited residents from commercially producing alcoholic products in the city.
City staff will now review the zoning ordinances and bring back to council changes that would allow small scale wineries or breweries to operate, though rules for limiting size or locations for such establishments are yet to be determined.
Mayor Art Madrid described the change as the city catching up with an industry that has changed from industrial-sized operations that needed such controls to smaller, entrepreneurial establishments that have helped revive commercial districts elsewhere in the county. More and more wine grapes are being grown on Mt. Helix and private, non-commercial wine and beer production is flourishing in local homes.
Sitting up front in the council chamber were Mike and Linda McWilliams, owners of the San Pasqual Winery, a tasting room in La Mesa Village that features wines the McWilliams have to make outside of La Mesa in a small Pacific Beach facility.
McWilliams said his 1,500 square foot Pacific Beach facility is smaller than he needs and he'd rather have a 4,000 or 5,000-square foot facility here in La Mesa. McWilliams said he and his wife, the vintner, have spent a lot of time driving through the industrial Center Street area looking for a location they think might be approved for wine production if the zoning laws are adjusted.
City Manager Dave Witt said he wasn't sure how long it would take his staff to draw up new regulations, but said they would work as quickly as possible. He has a little time. The next pressing of grapes doesn't happen until the fall harvest.
In other council action, the council did not, as expected, take on the "chickens in La Mesa issue.''
At its last meeting, Councilwoman Ruth Sterling had asked to the council to add the chicken issue to Tuesday's agenda and it appeared the council had approved her request by consensus. However, Tuesday's agenda was published and the chickens were scarcer than beef at a vegetarian convention dinner.
Sterling said city staff had prevailed upon her to let the chicken issue continue through the larger, General Plan amendment process that is currently underway and may take another year.
Bill Chopyk, the city's Community Development director, said the General Plan includes a proposed amendment that would make it legal for city residents to keep chickens (not roosters) in their yards. But Chopyk said the General Plan process demands that new elements are put through an environmental impact process that can establish guidelines and regulations that will be key in helping any chicken ownership effort succeed once in place.
Chopyk said the city knows that local residents are keeping chickens in violation of current zoning laws. The city has had complaints from the neighbors of some of the chicken keepers -- odors and chickens running loose among the complaints.
If people are going to successfully keep chickens, the city's ordinance will have to be clear in expectations for cleanliness and control or complaints will come, Chopyk said. He prefers the full General Plan process rather than a quick change by the council.
In a zoning issue not related to chickens, Chopyk acknowledged that his code enforcement people recently paid a visit on the new Gingham restaurant because of a complaint by a local resident that Gingham was using amplified sound on its outside patio.
Gingham's management had begun showing Wednesday night outdoor movies on its patio and planned to do the same all summer, but a local resident had filed a noise complaint.
As Gio's, the restaurant's previous tenant, the city had outlawed the use of amplified sound on the outside patio because noise was bothering the Village's nearby residential properties. The Gingham movies violated those restrictions.
Chopyk said his staff is working with Gingham management to see if the movies could be moved into their indoor space.
In other council action, the city honored winners of annual safety patrol awards at local schools, major Flag Day donors and accepted design awards for the city's rehab of LaMesita Park and Allison Avenue. Photos below.