SodaCanyonRoad | Mar 10, 2015 BOS-PC statement: Geoff Ellsworth

Mar 10, 2015 BOS-PC statement: Geoff Ellsworth

Geoff Ellsworth | Mar 11, 2015 on: The WDO

Agriculture versus hospitality

I think it important to make a distinction between wineries and “event center wineries”.
Between agriculture and hospitality.

Also I don’t think anybody would have had a problem with our local wineries doing a few more events. The problem is we left the door open for a vast amount of new “event center winery” projects with little study of the impacts.
Every 10 acre parcel in the county vulnerable?
4,500 potential event center parcels in the county?
I don’t think we can handle even three more.

Recently I heard that opposition groups will be involved in this discussion.
I hope nobody thinks the citizens here are the opposition.
We’re the people who share our roads and water with you, we are your community.
What I also am is a sentinel on the ridge - telling you of a threat coming toward us.

Potential cumulative impacts from a proliferation of “event center wineries” are devastating. The heavy visitation of the event center business model cannot help but encroach upon our shared common resources of such things as roads, water and emergency services.

While I appreciate the joint letter of the industry groups and I know you are concerned, I believe we need to pause NOW, for perhaps six months, to gather and analyze data IMMEDIATELY before further development. We need a long term plan AND immediate, urgent action. We are in a drought, trucking of water and wastewater demonstrates unsustainability, daily gridlock traffic on Silverado Trail and Hwy 29 are beyond inconvenience, now at a level of danger to health, welfare and safety. What is our evacuation plan in the event of another natural disaster? How are emergency response times affected? The pressure builds on our two-lane arteries with every approval, the pressure builds on our water sources and watersheds. How can this continue?

The coming threat is commercialization, urbanization, industrialization and a paving over of our rural growing lands and Ag regions. - to make way for marketing events, tour buses, hospitality centers, parking lots, wedding factories - masking themselves as agriculture and local wineries, corporate owned hotels, restaurants and product tie-ins, co-opting our small towns and Ag zones into marketing platforms with “heads in beds” filled by tourism destination councils, destroying our rural nature AND the fabric of our communities as core citizens move away.
Like a hardy and invasive weed this business model will choke us out.

We are seeing a wholesale re-purposment of county zoning, from AG and residential into heavy tourist commercial use, selling tickets as much as wine.

Perhaps by accident, but by degree, a re-purposement our citizens were not properly aware of, a compromise of the zoning that is one of the insurances our property values remain stable, an insurance of our quality of life.

How would you like to wake up one morning with a leaf blower factory next to your house? When you complain you are told “ didn’t you see the notice in the back of the newspaper five years ago? You should have spoken up then”. This is not fair to the citizen stakeholders of our community.

We must not be fooled by up front dollar signs, the long term costs of this type of boom and bust tourism cycle will exceed any benefits. Could this be worse than phylloxera? Perhaps, because with phylloxera eventually you can plant again. Once we begin paved over our Ag regions and our core citizens start moving away, Napa County/Napa Valley, could easily go the way of the San Fernando Valley and Silicon Valley, both once prime growing regions, now built out with urban development.

We need policy decisions on variances.
We need planning staff that will defend our General Plans.

We must remember it is the citizens here that vote for the Ag, this is a right-to-farm county because the citizens allow it. It might be a good idea to be nice to them.

The Ag community and the true winemaking community of Napa County must stand and protect it’s citizens - so that the citizens will still be here to stand for the Ag and our true wine heritage when that time comes. As Ben Franklin said “We must all hang together or, most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”