Supervisors approve reduction of Rancho California agriculture preserve area

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The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved a reduction in the amount of land within a Rancho California agricultural preserve.

The supervisors’ 5-0 vote, Dec. 10, reduced the preserve on the specific property from 21.43 to 16.33 acres while also adopting the environmental Mitigated Negative Declaration for diminishing the preserve by 5.1 acres. The property had been part of a preserve totaling 91.37 acres, which will be reduced to 86.27 acres. The supervisors’ action did not approve the winery and associated facilities which are the proposed alternate use for the land; that application will be processed separately.

In 1965, California passed the Williamson Act which allows landowners to sign contracts agreeing to restrict their land to agricultural or other open space use, including recreational use or a combination of agricultural, open space and recreational use, in exchange for the land being assessed on its restricted use rather than its market value. The lower assessment reduces property tax liability for the owner, and the Williamson Act includes a provision providing partial reimbursement by the state to the counties for the lost property tax revenue. A Williamson Act contract can be terminated by a notice of non-renewal.

Vincent and Audrey Cilurzo owned the property north of Calle Contrento, south of Cilurzo Road, east of Rancho California Road and west of Madera de Playa Drive when they entered into a Williamson Act contract in 1976. They provided a notice of non-renewal in 1986, and the Williamson Act contract expired Dec. 31, 1995. The property is now owned by the Cziraki Family Trust, and Imre and Gizella Cziraki requested that the 5.1 acres be removed from the agricultural preserve area. Rancho California Agricultural Preserve No. 9 predates that Williamson Act contract, as the agricultural preserve was established in February 1974.

The land currently has “Wine Country – Winery” zoning and a “Agriculture: Agriculture” land use designation, so no zoning or land use changes will be needed for the proposed Class V winery. If the winery is approved, the existing barn will be converted into a 13,467-square-foot wine production building with offices, a wine laboratory, wine storage and restrooms. A tasting room of 5,919 square feet would be constructed and would have restaurant dining along with a kitchen, a retail sales area, offices, restrooms and storage rooms. A 531-square-foot wedding preparation building would also be constructed which would have restrooms, a wedding pergola with a lawn area for seating and an outdoor pond. The winery would have 83 parking spaces including nine meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and three with electric vehicle charging stations. A plot plan will be required for the winery.

Joe Naiman can be reached by email at jnaiman@reedermedia.com.