Laetitia Winery owners respond to criticism over lawsuit

May 13, 2019

Opinion by Terry Wheatley, president of Vintage Wine Estates

Open letter to the San Luis Obispo County Community:

We have heard your voices and want to open up a conversation about the closure of the four crossings, inclusive of the El Campo Road turn-off. Yes, it’s true that our company, Vintage Wine Estates, filed a suit against Caltrans to stop the closure.

But our intent was not to take the safety of the community lightly nor to take lightly the tragic death of Jordan Grant.

Our intent was to create positive action for Caltrans to evaluate all of the impacts of the closures that are likely to occur, mitigate those impacts, and importantly, consider and adopt a permanent solution to El Campo Road access, not only for Laetitia Winery but for the many homes and ranches along El Campo Road.

We support an overpass, currently on a 20-year project completion timeline, to be fast-tracked by Cal Trans on an accelerated five-year completion date. This is a solution that will benefit everybody who uses El Campo Road for safe, everyday access to homes and businesses, and most importantly, in case of emergencies such as wildfires.

We believe these alternatives should have been adopted as part of the decision to close the four crossings.

The lawsuit was intended to focus Sacramento on the urgent issue and not settle for a stop gap or years-down-the-road solution. We are continuing to work hard towards this goal. We fell short of our responsibility to explore and communicate this to the community and for that we apologize.

The safety of El Campo Road and the other three crossings is a priority for our company, as employees, guests and neighbors use it every day. We have employees who are past students of Cal Poly and many of us are parents or family members of students, so this issue hits very close to home.

We are committed to being part of the traffic and safety solution for El Campo Road.

Terry Wheatley is the president of Vintage Wine Estates, which recently acquired Laetitia Winery.

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