SodaCanyonRoad | Hocker MPV Statement

Hocker MPV Statement

Bill Hocker | Apr 30, 2014 on: Mountain Peak Winery

[proposed email to be sent to the planning commission once the neg dec is made]

May 28, 2014

Members of the Napa Planning Commission and the
Napa County Planning Department
1195 Third St., Second Floor
Napa, CA 94559

Re: Mountain Peak Vineyards Use Permit Application
3267 Soda Canyon Road, Napa

My wife and I are adjacent neighbors of the Proposed Mountain Peak project.

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak with Sheveta Sharma on a couple of occasions in the last month, and her willingness to respond to my questions

As she has suggested, I have tried to more narrowly focus a few of my questions in the hopes of giving the planning department a more succinct basis for response. Some of my questions may appear naïve, but this may be due to my lack of knowledge of the issues involved in such a development. I must rely on conjecture concerning the potential impacts that the project might present to my situation, as a neighbor, and I admit stumbling upon ordinances or policies that seem applicable.

I am certain that some of the answers may be addressed in the developer's engineering report, but it is too dense and technical for me to fully understand and in any case I am sure that engineers make reports that weigh ambiguity and uncertainty to their clients' benefit. I would hope that the County would be making decisions and answering questions based on more objective research that considers the interests of the people who must live next to the project as well as those of the people who intend to profit from it.

Our Concerns are:

1.Unnecessity of Winery

Considering that all of the grapes on the owner's 2 properties are currently being processed into wine at other wineries (some perhaps at the local Antica Winery);

And considering that 4-5 acres of grapes are actually being removed to accommodate the winery and tourism facility;

Why is this winery even necessary for the maintenance of Napa's agricultural economy? Is it the county's position that every piece of property in the County larger than 10 acres is entitled to have a winery? If only half of those owners were to build a winery because the tourism they generate seems to be more profitable than growing grapes, each nibbling away at the vineyard acres, what would the effect be on the notion of the Ag Preserve?

2. Inappropriate Scale:

Considering that this project proposes 65,000 sf of winery+caves plus 15,000 sf of crushpad plus 10,000 sf of tasting rooms plus 3 to 5000 sf of additional above ground structures, all to produce 100,000 gal/yr;

And considering that the other winery currently permitted on the watershed, Antica Napa Valley, has produced 450,000 gals/yr since 1987 in a facility permitted to have a 47,000 sf winery;

And considering that the County just approved a 100,000 gal/yr winery/tasting room/offices, The Corona Winery, on the Silverado Trail at Soda Canyon Rd that is a total of 28,000 sf;

Why should the county permit a project of this scale, producing less than 1/4 the wine of a similar sized winery and the same amount of wine as a winery 1/3 its size?

3. Inappropriate Tourism Location

Given that the County “considers the remoteness of the location and the amount of wine to be produced at a facility when reviewing use permit proposals, and endeavors to ensure a direct relationship between access constraints and on-site marketing and visitation programs" in its Resolution No 2010-48;

And considering that the proposed site is 6 miles up a small and winding and, in places, dangerous country road;

And considering that this is a remote area of only residences and vineyards (and one winery isolated in the center of 700 acres of vines with a much more restricted tasting allocation);

Why should the County permit a 130 trip/day, or 18000 visitors/year, tourism facility at such a remote location?

4. Alcohol on Soda Canyon Road Impacts

Considering that the proposed site is 6 miles up a small and winding and in places dangerous country road, with blind curves, and steep grade aside a ravine, a road that descends over a pass that is quite often buried in thick fog, and must be sanded to counter black ice during frosts;

Considering that wine tasters may leave late-opening and remote tasting rooms (with a great sunset view) as the last stop on their day of wine tasting, having consuming alcohol previously at other venues or after having consumed a bottle or two at the picnic tables;

And considering that, unlike almost all drivers on this dead end road, tourists coming to this project will be unfamiliar with the more dangerous parts of the road;

Why should the County allow tasting room hours for this project to last until 6:00pm

Why should the County allow marketing events, which involve more alcohol consumption than tastings to last until 10:00?

Why should the county allow that consumption of more than just tasting quantities of alcohol in picnic areas?

This road should not be navigated by inebriated drivers especially when they are unfamiliar with its dangers.

5. Road Condition Impacts

Considering that the road is in a marginal state of repair and maintenance, perhaps as befits a small country, with crumbling shoulders and inside curves of its step grade beginning to sink into the adjacent ravine under the already overburdened weight of heavy trucks and daily farmworker commutes;

And considering the volume of traffic that this project will be adding to the road, both during the months or years of construction and then the necessity to move 80+ visitors and 19 employees and up and down the road each day;

And considering that according to the developer's traffic report the junction at Soda Canyon and the Silverado Trail even now has "unacceptable" delays and at times is already over the "signal warrant criteria levels" ;

And considering the almost certain reality that the County will have to give similar tasting/marketing privileges to the Antica winery that has been asking for such privileges since it was built 30 years ago, and thus doubling any employee/visitation numbers generated by this project;

And considering the precedent that this project will set for the development of similar projects along the road;

What steps will the County undertake to improve the condition and safety of the road to accommodate the increased volume of traffic on the road? Note Dan Mcfadden's letter here.

What steps will the County undertake at Soda Canyon Road and the Silverado Trail, an intersection that is already enormously overburdened at certain times of the day? Again people familiar with the road know the rhythm of traffic on the Trail and are more capable of timing that difficult left turn given the right break in the traffic. People unfamiliar with the road may be more cautious, making the backup at the stop sign exponentially longer, or less cautions increasing the potential for accidents with oncoming cars.

6. Non-Compliance with AW provisions

Considering that this parcel is in an AW district but does not comply with the basic 60-40 rule outlined in sec 18.108.027B of Ordinance 1219;

And considering that this property is not just in a watershed area, but has the main fork of rector creek crossing the property with another fork touching the property line:

Why should this project be allowed to remove many acres currently planted in vineyards for the development of parking lots, increased building areas, sculpture gardens, crush pads, maintenance and mechanical buildings, water storage tanks and wastewater treatment systems, large areas for the piling of pulverized rock spoils and a large amount of fill necessary for the Crush pad access road?

If major development of the property is to take place shouldn't the property first be restored to the 60/40 balance before additional development is approved, rather than replacing 4-5 acres of existing vines with facilities?

7. Rector Creek Endangerment

Considering that this project has the main fork of Rector Creek (usgs blue line) crossing its property and has another fork of Rector Creek (also usgs blue line) touching the property line;

And considering the watershed protection goals enumerated in Sec 18-108.010B of Ordinance 1219 to prevent pollution of the creek from earth moving operations;

And considering the extensive excavation and fill projected for this project – over 1,200,000 cf of cave spoils, 150,000 cf of excavated crushpad, a roadway raised 20 ft above existing grade; 100000 gallon water tanks buried underground, 300,000 cf of vineyard topsoil removed and then replaced to bury the spoils form the caves, which then fills the lowlands of the site to 4 ft above existing grade and other areas adjacent to Rector Creek to a height of 10 ft;

Why should the County allow extensive excavations both above and below ground adjacent to one fork of Rector Creek (the crush pad, which will be the extraction zone for the 1,200,000 cf coming from the caves, will be 75 ft from bank of the creek)

Why should the County allow deposit of spoils to a height of 4 ft surrounding a proscribed wetlands area of the site as well as adjacent to another fork of Rector Creek?

What mitigation has the County required of the developer of this project to make sure that excavations materials, and the dust created by such extensive excavations and gradings will not end up in the Rector Creek forks and ultimately Rector Reservoir?

What mitigation has the County required to insure that the extensive below ground excavations will not upset the hydrology that feeds neighbors springs and wells?

8. Waste Water Treatment

Considering the requirements of sec 18.108.027 of Ordinance 1219 regarding sensitive water supply drainages:

Considering that the proposal anticipates a septic system to accomodate at least 99 people per day plus additional 12-125 people/ week for marketing events:

What requirements has the County asked of the developer to insure that this small public water system and its leach field required for this quantity of people would not have a polluting impact on the adjacent forks of Rector Creek (the edge of the leach field is shown 150’ from closest fork).

9. Unknown effect on Groundwater Availability

Considering that the Napa County Groundwater Monitoring Plan has “no data” on the groundwater conditions of the “Eastern Mountains” region of the county but indicates that “one well near the MST shows recent declines similar to those found in the MST”;

And considering that a Phase II water analysis in the western mountains showed much lower water availability than the county's allowed .5acft/yr;

and considering that the project proposes to use close to the maximum water allotment for a parcel this size in an AW zone (19.15/ AF/YR vs 20.88 AF/yr allowed);

and considering that a warming climate will almost certainly reduce the amount of water available county wide:

What monitoring has the County or developer done to arrive at the 14.75 acreft currently being used?

What tests or monitoring has the County made to verify that the .5 acreft /acre number is realistic for this area and should a phase II analysis be required?

Shouldn't the county require a phase 2 water analysis of the project that includes a aquifer test of neighbor's wells while project wells are under maximum use?

What mitigation has the County required to insure that the project's increased water usage will not hasten or directly cause the drying up of neighbor's springs and wells?
In a subject as uncertain as underground hydrology, consultants hired by the developer to give optimistic assessments should not be the final arbiters in this decision. The County should require that the Developer pay for independent testing both before a new well is dug and after project completion to insure residents continued access to water.

Shouldn't the county limit the depth of the applicant's new well to the depth of the nearest neighbor's well to insure that depletions affect all water users equally?

What reparations will the County require of the developer in the event that wells do dry after the completion of this project? The time to mitigate such foreseeable consequences is now, under the proposed use permit.

10. Light and Noise, Odor Impacts

Considering that The Napa General Plan specifically recognizes that the eastern part of the county is a dark sky environment, in which the milky way is visible:

And considering that the Napa General Plan goes into substantial detail concerning noise pollution:

What mitigation measures will be imposed upon this project to make certain that the Milky Way remains visible?

What mitigation will the project take to insure that light from the glass tasting pavilions, parking lot lights, visitors cars, walkways and other uses intended for tourists do not spill over the property lines to eliminate this dark sky environment for the neighbors?

What level of background noise pollution will be allowed by this project, recognizing that we are beginning at a level of almost 0db of manmade noise pollution in this area?

What mitigation measures will be required of the project to prevent noise pollution from the tourism vehicle access and parking, picnic areas, tasting room terrace events as well as from the farmworker parking lots from crossing property lines.

Considering that the LYVE wastewater treatment plant and its pumps and 100,000 gal tanks have been placed adjacent to our property line;

What mitigation measures will be required of the project to prevent noise of the pumps of the wastewater treatment plant and any odors it might generate from crossing property lines.

11. Construction Impacts

Considering that enormous amounts of dust will be generated by a construction project requiring the movement of perhaps 1.5 million cf of dirt over a period of perhaps many months or years:

What mitigations will the developer take to insure that the crops of adjacent owners (grapes on two sides and olives on the third side) are not affected by the dust generated? What reparations will the developer be required to make should fruit be damaged?

Considering that a construction project of this size will require dozens of workers, and subcontractors and consultants and inspectors, each with their own vehicles;

And considering that construction projects generate light and noise impacts far beyond the normal impacts of a retail and factory operation;

And considering that these impacts may last for many months if not years on such a large project;

What limits will the county put on the hours of construction and the number of days per week that construction my take place so that at least a portion of the week is free from the noise and dust.

What conditions will the developer be required to abide by to insure that construction vehicles and equipment will not be parked within and will not obstruct the deeded access easemants granted to adjacent neighbors and to others along the road. (in particular around my entrance gate which is at the most constricted part of the developers hourglass-shaped property.

12. Privacy Concerns

Considering that the project anticipates a fill of 4 ft just adjacent to my property line, creating essentially a platform from which to look out over my property;

And considering that their proposal indicates tourist picnic areas on this platform and along the entrance road to my property;

What mitigations will the developer take to insure that my property is insulated from this tourist activity?

Considering that the waste water treatment plant, which includes a container cargo sized processing unit, 2 - 10,000 gal tanks, 2- 100,000 gal tanks (25’ dia x 25’ high) and pumps connecting everything together, has been placed against my property line (presumably to get it as far away from the tourist center as possible);

What mitigations will the developer make to lessen the visual and noise impact of such an industrial facility next door?

Might the developer consider using the spoils to produce landscaped berms separating our properties rather than filling large areas of the site to a 4 ft depth in order to mitigate these impacts.

13. The Viticulture Office

The existing viticultural office located just adjacent to our front gate "has served as the center for agricultural interests for Stagecoach Vineyards" and "will continue in its present capacity and is not proposed to include winery uses at this time" according to the project statement. Does this mean that Stagecoach Vineyards will continue to use it as a sales office?
On the developer's site plan a picnic area is shown atop the spoils mound just adjacent the viticultural office with a path leading from the office. What is the function of that picnic area?

We would like greater clarification from the developer on how this area of the site, including the entry gate to viticultural office, is to be used since it is immediately adjacent to our front gate and entry road easement.

14. Necessity of EIR

Considering that this project may set a precedent for the 40 or 50 other parcels over 10 acres on the rector watershed resulting in a commutative effect much greater than its individual impacts;

And considering that CEQA regulation 15064 (h)(1) states that
"(h)(1) When assessing whether a cumulative effect requires an EIR, the lead agency shall consider whether the cumulative impact is significant and whether the effects of the project are cumulatively considerable. An EIR must be prepared if the cumulative impact may be significant and the project's incremental effect, though individually limited, is cumulatively considerable. "Cumulatively considerable" means that the incremental effects of an individual project are significant when viewed in connection with the effects of past projects, the effects of other current projects, and the effects of probable future projects."

Why should not the county require an EIR report on the project?

Thank you for your consideration of these matters.


Bill Hocker and Mui ho