John McDowell, Deputy Planning Director
Napa County Planning, Building & Environmental Services Dept.
1195 Third Street, Suite 210
Napa, CA 94559
Re: Mountain Peak Vineyard [Winery] application Use Permit #P13-00320-UP Dear
Deputy Planning Director McDowell,
Since the last Planning Commission hearing regarding Mountain Peak Vineyard [Winery] (MPV) of July 20, 2016, several more incidents of note have occurred on Soda Canyon Road that pertain to my request to deny or substantially reduce the scope of the MPV proposal.
A refresher: Soda Canyon Road is a poorly maintained, two lane, dangerous, dead-end road that winds its way up Soda Creek, over a steep grade and ends on a high plateau at the edge of Rector Creek Canyon. The plateau is the watershed of Rector Reservoir on the eastern side of the Napa Valley. There are three ends to Soda Canyon Road [one is paved, the other two are dirt and lead to residences and vineyards].
This area, described in the Napa County General Plan as a dark- sky environment, is remote from the light and noise of the Napa Valley. Until recently, the area has been entirely residential, agricultural or undeveloped watershed. Only two commercial wineries have been on the road in the last half century: the small White Rock Winery on Loma Vista and the large Antica Napa Valley set in its own 1000 acres on the Rector Plateau.
As of today’s date, Soda Canyon Road has eight (8) wineries approved or in the application process. The MPV proposal
brings the total to nine (9).
UPDATE WILDFIRE: July 26, 2016 Soda Canyon Road blocked by emergency vehicles all morning. Thankfully the wildfire was contained quickly, however there was no ingress/egress for the entire morning for anyone [residents, winery personnel, tour buses, visitors or the mailman].
The Soda Canyon Road area has the second highest number of emergency incidents in Napa County. Wildfires are an unfortunate occurrence throughout the year and pose significant safety issues for anyone visiting the area [including proposed MPV visitors].
Stranded tourists waiting to be rescued on their way to the Beau Vigne vineyards at the top of Soda Canyon.
UPDATE TRAFFIC INCIDENTS: Tour bus breaks down on Soda Canyon Road, while visiting the Beau Vigne vineyards not winery.
Date: September 24, 2016 Three tour buses visiting the vineyards of Beau Vigne Winery (winery approved on September 7, 2016, by the Napa County Planning Commission*) transport their winery visitors to their vineyards located on the dirt portion of Soda Canyon Road in Foss Valley (~7 mile marker). One of the buses broke down on the steepest part of the paved grade (~5 mile marker). The other two buses continued to the vineyard...kicking up a lot of dust. One of the tour buses later returned to the broken-down bus and transported the remainder of visitors to the vineyard.
Breakdowns of this nature are frequent and not limited to tour buses. Many vineyard and delivery trucks likewise breakdown at the steepest part of the paved road, sometimes blocking traffic in both directions.
While Beau Vigne visitation and production may be modest, it is just one of several projects approved or in the pipeline right at the base of Soda Canyon Road that will change the character of the Trail in this location and increase the amount of traffic we have to deal with at the Soda Canyon junction and on the mountain.
This brings up another topic: Was the visitation of Beau Vigne tourists to their vineyards at the top of Soda Canyon also included in the permit? Do winery use permits include vineyard visitation as well? This is very relevant to the MPV application in that they also have vineyards located down the dirt portion of Soda Canyon Road which is not a county maintained and one lane. Not a safe place to be in an emergency.
*Beau Vigne Winery is located at 4057 Silverado Trail, Napa; 625 feet north of its intersection with Soda Canyon Road. Their vineyard is located on Soda Canyon Road (dirt road section).
At the left is one of the other tour buses that did not break down entering the Beau Vigne vineyard. Please note all the DUST.
There is great concern regarding travel on Napa County dirt roads and its negative impact on our water resources, siltation and degradation of our environment.
This practice certainly does not protect our agricultural lands from an invasion of tourists among the vines. Or is this merely marketing and therefore defined as agriculture?
Is this the next phase we are to expect of tourism posing (and imposing) on agriculture in the Napa Valley?
REVELANCE to the MPV proposal:
Safety/Danger: The historic danger of wildland fire on the Soda Canyon Road is a given. Soda Canyon is a dangerous, dead-end road...no place for a huge, industrial strength, visitor center/winery with many employees and thousands of visitors. The recent increase in the number of wineries and related winery traffic on Soda Canyon, increases the potential of putting visitors, residents and wineries at increased risk and having to shelter-in-place during an emergency.
Current road conditions are not going to change: The road has not been improved and has in fact deteriorated at an alarming rate. The County has indicated it is not going to improve the paved road anytime soon, and they are not going to pave the dirt portions of the road probably ever.
Proximity to significant water resources and dirt roads: MPV’s proposed site is located at the junction of the paved and gravel road at the 6.1 mile marker; and sits in proximity to Rector Canyon and Reservoir. MPV’s second vineyard is located down the dirt road another 2-3 miles. If a precedent is set with the Beau Vigne example, then MPV could begin conducting tours down the one-lane, dirt road (not county maintained or owned) which then poses potential significant negative impacts and degradation of the Rector watershed and siltation from dirt-country roads.
The scale of the MPV proposal and its ambitious tourism marketing plan mark the true negative impact of wine tourism in a remote corner of the county. The MPV project promises to change the character of life on Soda Canyon Road and not for the better. If successful, it will not be the last such project to cash in on the bucolic remoteness of the rest of Soda Canyon...and that remoteness will be irreparably destroyed.
The MPV as proposed only adds to an already existing difficult and dangerous situation and adds more risk to anyone ‘visiting’ Soda Canyon Road; risk to our County’s valuable water resources; and the safety of tourists and residents alike. It adds nothing of real value.
The final indignity, the broken down tour bus being hauled away later that night in front of MPV.
The proposed MPV is not a small family winery designed to be consistent with the immediate local environment. In fact, it is quite the opposite. A winery of the proposed size and scope does not belong in a remote area on a dead-end road.
Please protect our fragile environment and homes from unwarranted, industrial strength, mega- wineries in remote locations in Napa County. I’m counting on you to represent and ensure the health and safety of local residents. If you truly wish to create a Napa County where our children and future generations of Napa citizens will live, and raise their families, then the choice is clear.
I respectfully request that you deny the MPV application. Short of that, please significantly reduce the number of allowed public tours, events, winery size and production levels.