By Gretchen Giles
Thomas Morabito has learned a lot of new words lately, some of which he thought he already knew. "I looked up the word 'neighbor' in the dictionary recently," he said, sitting in the Bohemian offices last week. "It means a person. It doesn't mean a bottling plant."
Morabito, whom we invited in not realizing that he had just submitted a letter to our publication, came on a recent morning to discuss what might be his new neighbor, the Best Family Wine Investors, LLC. Morabito, who has lived on Atkinson Lane in Sebastopol, between Andy's Produce and Occidental Road off of Highway 116, for over 18 years, is concerned that his proposed new neighbor might be a behemoth wine-bottling operation whose plans include a 33,000-square-foot, 47-foot-high building able to process 26,500 cases of wine annually, replete with a three-acre ornamental vineyard and a 5,000-square-foot tasting room essentially in his backyard. Where an apple orchard, one of Sebastopol's vanishing crops, currently stands would be a large vanity crush facility with plans to host monthly events and as many as five industry do's a year. Morabito and his actual human neighbors are not pleased.
He's learned other words, too, mostly acronyms. DA means "diverse agriculture"; RR is "rural residential"; GP, "general plan." And then there's the big one: MND, a "mitigated negative declaration." "That's in lieu of an EIR," Morabito says, already at ease with the acronym for environmental impact report from his two decades as a general contractor. "I now know how to say MND," he says vehemently. "I resent that I have to learn this. When I first started looking into Best Family Wines, I didn't think anything of the wine business. I had no idea of any of this stuff, and I don't want to know it. I just want to stay in my home another 18 years."
Morabito and others charge that the proposed facility is getting a sweet rezoning deal from the board of supervisors, which is considering spot-zoning to accommodate it. They're worried about water, traffic, noise and pollution. Parking, congestion and 2am harvest runs. The supes stand to vote on the proposal Oct. 20, but Morabito fears it will be another term he used to be unaware of: a straw vote, meaning that real voting will take place in December. "I haven't worked in a month," he says. "I've told all my clients to contact me after October. I don't know if I can hold out until December."
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