County Fire? AMGEN rolling through town? The two elections that ushered in a wave of change that impacted both local and county government? The formation of digital vigilante groups that formed after certain instances of social media hysteria? The groundbreaking of Winters Healthcare? The rollout of Phase 3 of the Putah Creek restoration project? How about the success of Porchfest? Or the championship that the Winters Jr. Warriors brought home? Or the thousands of dollars raised by locals for victims of the Camp Fire? So much happened in our community — even at the Express — that it’s difficult to pinpoint the key stories of the year without the nagging feeling that something has been left out (send an email with the events and news stories that made the top of your list). But the foundation for what’s ahead in 2019 has already been laid in large part thanks to everything that happened in 2018, so here’s our best glimpse at what to expect in the new year: Hotel Winters Set to Open: The Express previously reported the much-anticipated boutique hotel located in the downtown area would open sometime in the spring, and officials connected to the hotel confirmed recently it will open in the final weeks of the season. City officials positively reviewed the upcoming hotel following a recent tour of the complex. The 70-plus room hotel is slated to include several eateries — a rooftop lounge and an Italian-themed restaurant among them. Whether or not the hotel provides an expected boon for the downtown economy remains to be seen. Food Trucks Come to Town: With the formal adoption of an ordinance regulating food trucks in Winters, the city is now set to process applications from prospective mobile catering businesses. In addition to the food truck ordinance, city officials conceded that a recently-enacted state law prevents them from prohibiting sidewalk vendors from operating in public rights of way, so it is possible more of those will appear throughout town. Parking Tickets Will Fly — At Least For A While: The city formally adopted the Downtown Parking Master Plan, and significant portions of the plan will take effect in 2019. Among them, expect to see public works crews repainting parking spots in the downtown area and installing time limit signs. Community service officers will patrol the city at unannounced times, and warnings will be issued before citations are written for cars that violate parking rules. Pizza Factory Will Reopen: After abruptly closing last summer, the Pizza Factory is set to reopen in the first half of 2019 under new ownership. New proprietor Charles Pearce told the Express the restaurant is being remodeled from the ground up and is in the process of obtaining a license to sell beer and wine. One thing will still be the same: The pizza. Pearce says profits from the restaurant will help fuel his philanthropic endeavors, and if all goes well a second Pizza Factory location could be in the works for the Esparto area. Expect More Wildfires: Experts largely agree that California now has a year-long fire season. With the Winters area experiencing at least one major wildfire over the last five years, it is highly likely the city and county will see additional wildfires as summer creeps closer. City and county officials began preparing for additional wildfires following 2018’s County Fire, which scorched 90,000 acres and caused significant disruptions around the Independence Day holiday. A New Sheriff Comes to Town: In June 2018, voters picked current Yolo County Undersheriff Tom Lopez to lead the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department in 2019. As reported by the Express in July, Sheriff-elect Lopez already has several ideas for restoring community relations throughout the county, including a plan to return reserve deputies to key areas in rural and underserved areas. AirBNBs to Be Regulated: A proposed ordinance that would regulate AirBNBs that was drafted in 2018 was heard by the Winters planning commission without a recommendation to be passed to the city council, though the proposal is not dead. City officials said at a recent planning commission meeting that the ordinance is still being worked on, and the expectation is a revised version will come before the planning commission around the beginning of 2019. The regulation could require AirBNB operators obtain a specialized permit that the city could use as an incentive for home owners to maintain order and prevent neighborhood nuisance. Annual Events Will Be Larger: Youth Day, Earthquake Festival, the Tractor Parade and Festival de la Communidad are expected to return in 2019. If 2018 was any indication, these events will draw a larger attendance. Additionally, city officials have expressed interest in officially sanctioning Porchfest, which came to Winters for the first time in 2018, so a second annual Porchfest is not out of the question. Last, city and education leaders in Winters will be asked to help drum up interest for the county’s Youth Empowerment Summit, a civc engagement initiative that connects high school-aged students with community and elected officials; the 2018 summit was considered a success, though organizers admitted no students from Winters attended — something they would like to see change when the second-annual event is held in March.
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