SodaCanyonRoad | May 3, 2017 at the Planning Commission

May 3, 2017 at the Planning Commission

Bill Hocker | Apr 28, 2017 on: Growth Issues

From the SCR Calendar:
May 3rd, 2017 County Planning Commission
Agenda and Documents

8A Flora Springs Winery Major Mod
26900 more vis/yr, 11 more employees, water and sewer upgrades to accommodate more people and more food.

8B Truchard Winery New Use Permit
100,000 g/y, 17900 vis/yr, 6-10 employees, setback variance

8C Beautiful Day Winery New Use Permit
30,000 g/y, 21300 vis/yr, 10 employees

8D Poetry Inn driveway road exception
"This existing road serves an Inn, an un-built approved winery, an existing residence and a replacement residence with its proposed second unit and guesthouse." How much urban development is possible on agriculture-watershed land? What will Napa look like when all 4500 parcels are so developed? How many exceptions and variances will be made to make it possible?

This upcoming planning commission meeting is a good window into the future of Napa County. The three winery projects being reviewed and the one that will become feasible with the road exception represent:

  • at least 66,100 new visitor slots to be filled meaning perhaps 22,000 more visitors/yr to be accommodated by county infrastructure and services
  • 28-36 more employees driving to work each day and needing affordable housing
  • 142,000 gal/yr of unnecessary processing capacity to make wine already being made elsewhere in the county.

Just one day's work for the Planning Commission.

If all are approved it will be a notable but not extraordinary addition of urban building projects in the ag zones. After preservationists' defeat at APAC and the election of development oriented Supervisors last year, the county has been on a push to draw down the large backlog of building use permits and modifications being requested. Can they do it faster than new projects are being submitted? Prior to this hearing, the Planning Commission has approved 7 new wineries and 9 major winery modifications this year, more, as the planning director seemed to boast at a recent hearing, than in all of 2016. They represent about:

  • 85,000 more visitor slots, meaning perhaps 28,000 more visitors to the county each year
  • 150-160 more employees on the roads and looking for affordable housing.
  • 270,000 gal/yr of additional unnecessary capacity to make wine already being made elsewhere in the county

Dan Mufson got up at the Supervisors strategic retreat on Apr 24 th with a simple recommendation to begin to address the affordable housing issues (and the traffic issues) that everyone, even the Supes, now sees as the lamentable future of the county: stop building wineries. The same amount of Napa wine will be sold each year whether these projects are built or not. And some of the County's service costs to deal with the ever increasing tourism population will be curbed. It should be a no-brainier.

The Poetry Inn road exception request was an unexpected addition to he agenda. It shows the limits that the county may be willing to go to insure that all 4500 10+ acre parcels of land in the county's ag preserve and ag watershed zones can be maximized to their urban development potential. Vineyards may survive in the county, as vanity statements of the good life, but the price to be paid will be 3 houses and a showpiece winery on each parcel to cater to a burgeoning tourist population. Most will require setback variances and road exceptions to be feasible.

As with the Caves at Soda Canyon this would appear to be a totally inappropriate site for an industrial facility, up a road with substandard curves and in this case with a slope exceeding 22%.

And 'A determination was made that the winery use permit was "used" on April 15, 2017.' - 2 weeks before this hearing? Normally there is a 2 year sunset period on use permits if they are not "used". What's going on here?

And the Poetry Inn, a hotel, apparently built on ag land in the mid 2000's based on a b&b that may have been created in the 1990's? The 1983 General Plan allows only agricultural processing (and accessory activities) and farm labor housing. "No other use or development of a parcel located in an agricultural area shall be permitted unless it is needed for the agricultural use of the parcel." What is the story with this developer and why is none of this history at least mentioned in the agenda letter?

This meeting should be about more than just road exceptions.