|Mar 17, 2014|"To insure that the intensity of winery activities is appropriately scaled, 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"
33,000 sf of caves
6 miles up a winding dead-end road
Mountain Peak Winery
The Proposed Mountain Peak Winery is to be located on the former Jan Krupp residence at 3265 Soda Canyon Road
. The Use Permit was approved by the Planning Commission
on Jan 4th, 2017, and the approval upheld by the Supervisors on Aug 22nd, 2017. A suit against the County to compel an EIR for the project was filed by neighbors Sep 20, 2017. The lawsuit is ongoing.
The project is for a 100,000 gal/yr winery, 33,400 sf of caves, 28 parking spaces, 19 full-time employees, above ground 8000 sf tasting room for 275 visitors/wk, plus 2 - 75 person and 1 - 125 person events/yr. The total amounts to 21510 tourist/employee users on the site each year (ave 59 each day), and 120 vehicle trips (60 up, 60 down) the road each day.
The issues raised by the project include the increased traffic that it will bring to an already dangerous road, insufficient consideration of fire danger on a dead-end road, the environmental danger of moving millions of cubic feet of earth within feet of two blue line creeks, a lack biologic resource analysis, insufficient and inaccurate analysis of groundwater extraction, and a disputed analysis of noise impacts.
For those of us who live on the road, the introduction of daily commercial activity that the winery will bring will be a quantum change to the remote and quiet sense of isolation that has made this place so special in an urbanizing world. And it will set a substantial precedent for further major tourism commercialization of our community and of the other remote areas throughout the county. The increased traffic of daily outside visitors will mean the death of a unique rural existence treasured by residents throughout the county, a quality of life worth fighting to retain.
6 miles up the winding, dead-end Soda Canyon Road.
Access is up a 13% grade rising 600 feet thought a narrow pass to the rector plateau.
The project will excavate and move almost 2,000,000 cf of dirt around the site next to 2 creeks dropping into Rector canyon.
The MPV Site (most of the vines in the photo will be gone and the truck entry road will bury the water tank. The crush pad and cave portal wall will be just to the left and further down the vine rows from the tank.)
County website's Mountain Peak page (documents)
Timeline of events
Update 6/16/20: Appellate Court again dismisses appeal of Remand to BOS
The third appeal by MPV of the Superior Court Judge's 2019 Remand of the project to the BOS for consideration of the fire evidence from the Atlas FIre has again been dismissed. Oral arguments about this appeal had been scheduled before the Appellate Court dismissal. Both MPV and SCG have waived participation in oral arguments. The BOS must now schedule a re-hearing of the Mountain Peak project to include the evidence of the Atlas Fire in making their decision. Once that hearing has concluded, the remainder of the CEQA challenge to the project may proceed in Superior Court.
Update 10/03/19: MPV files 2nd appeal of Remand which is again dismissed
On 8/16/19 the owners of Mountain Peak and the County again appealed the remand of the case back to the supervisors and again, on 10/3/19, the appeal was denied.
Update 6/18/19: Court remands Mountain Peak project back to Supervisors
The Napa Superior Court has reaffirmed its decision to remand the Mountain Peak project back to the supervisors to consider the new evidence that contradicts their finding in approving the project that Soda Canyon Road has the capacity to allow evacuation and emergency response in the event of a fire. In the Atlas fire it did not. The remand order must be presented by County Council to the Supervisors no later than July 8 2019 after which the Supervisors will set a public hearing date to consider the remanded issues. A status hearing on the case in Superior Court will occur on Aug 21 2019.
Update 4/23/19: Scope of Fire evidence in the remand
Following the unsuccessful attempt by MPV in the First District Appellate Court to contest the Superior Court's remand to the Supervisors, the case returns to Napa Superior Court to decide the scope of fire evidence to be remanded. MPV is still contending that none of the evidence should be heard. The hearing to determine the scope of the evidence will be heard on May 7, 2019, 8:30am
, Napa Superior Court, Dept C, Napa County Historical Courthouse, 825 Brown Street, Napa.
Documents submitted for this hearing:
Update 4/16/19: Appeal of Remand denied
The County's appeal of the remand was denied by the First District Appellate Court. The Supervisors will have to reconsider the new evidence of the fire in their approval of the Mountain Peak project.
Update 3/28/19: County Appeal of Remand
On Mar 28, 2019 Mountain Peak and Napa County filed a Writ of Mandate with the 1st District Court of California to overturn the Napa Superior Court's remand of the Mountain Peak project back to the Supervisors for consideration of evidence from the Atlas Peak Fire.
Update 2/27/19: Remand of Atlas Fire evidence
On Feb 1, 2019 Napa Superior Court ruled that some documents requested by the Soda Canyon Group for inclusion in the administrative record after the Planning Commission approval could not be included, but also ruled that the evidence of the 2017 fire, significant evidence unknown at the time of the Supervisors hearing, be remanded to the Board of Supervisors for their reconsideration. The hearing on the main case (Writ of Mandate), previously scheduled for Mar 7 2019, will be postponed.
Update 1/16/19: New court dates have been assigned
The hearing for Mountain Peak has been split into two days. Both hearings will take place in Napa County Historic Courthouse, Dept C, 825 Brown St, Napa
Friday, February 1, 2019 at 8:30am:
Update 12/25/18: Court Filings to date
Court will hear the Motion to Augment
(i.e. whether the Atlas Fire evidence should be made part of the administrative record)
Thursday, March 7, 2019 at 8:30am:
Court will hear the primary/underlying arguments in our CEQA case (i.e. the briefs pertaining to the Writ Petition
). [postponed indefinitely following Remand issue on 2/1/19]
Update 9/16/18: Court date set for Mountain Peak lawsuit
Hearing Date for the Mountain Peak CEQA lawsuit has been set for January 11, 2019
in the Napa County Historic Courthouse. The resident petitioners, called the Soda Canyon Group in the lawsuit, have submitted their opening brief and requested an augmentation of the administrative record to include evidence related to the 2017 fire and other issues.
Update 9/20/17: Lawsuit Filed Against County
The appellants have filed a lawsuit against the County contending that the County abused its discretion by relying on a Negative Declaration in lieu of preparing a full Environmental Impact Report for the Project.
Update 8/22/17: Aug 22, 2017 BOS Appeal Finalization
The Board of Supervisors on May 23rd voted to deny the 4 appeals by residents to the Jan 4th. Planning Commission's approval of the Mountain Peak project. The Board recommended some changes to the conditions of approval to be added before finally signing off on the denial. The decision was finalized on Aug 22nd 2017.
Update 5/23/17: May 23, 2017 BOS Appeal
The Board of Supervisors (Sups. Pedroza, Wagenknecht, Gregory and Ramos) denied the 4 appeals brought against the Planning Commission approval. Our own supervisor, Sup. Pedroza, made the motions to deny. Sup. Dillon was absent.
The Appeal Packet was submitted to the County. The tentative date for the appeal before the Board of Supervisors is May, 23, 2017l.
Update 1/4/17: Jan 4, 2017 PC hearing
The Planning Commission approved the project 3 to 1, with Terry Scott, Michael Basayne, and Jeri Gill voting in favor and Anne Cottrell opposed. Heather Phillips' previous position remains unfilled.
The planning department has confirmed the the applicant has asked for a continuance for the second day of the MPV hearing until Oct. 19th. The department's current understanding is a potential reduction in visitation numbers from 18486 visitors/yr to 14,575 visitors/yr. (Adding the 19-27 employees commuting to the site each day, the total "visitors" to the site will be 22,000/yr).
Update 7/20/16: July 20, 2016 PC hearing
The project was presented by the planning department and the applicant on 7/20/16. As Chair Basayne opened the meeting to public comments, Stu Smith barged to the front of the line to voice his law and order support given to every tourist attraction to come before the county, and then the opponents of the project spent most of the day making their opinions known. The commissioners expressed some displeasure at the amount of material added to the administrative record at the last minute but agreed that a continuance was needed to insure due process and their day of decision was continued until Aug 17th.
Developer's Acumen Brand website
The Napa Wine Project review of Acumen
(with a great drone video)
Developer's ABC license
Developer's Project Statement
County Initial Study EIR Checklist
Developer's Proposed Project PDF provided to neighbors
County's Use Permit Application and BMP checklist
Original Submission Cover Letter (2013)
(and my response
Re-submission cover letter and revised description (2015)
County's permit lookup
County Parcel Permit History
Parcel and Winery Location Map
LMR table of 100,000gal/yr wineries
MPV vs other Soda Canyon Winery data
Traffic and Noise peer reviews 7/19/16
Trip generation from the original MPV application
(now 60 visitors/day)
Crane Project Traffic Study
Crane Traffic Study figures and tables
Bartelt Road Study
Smith Traffic Peer Review
Napa County Traffic Counts
CHP 2013-14 Incidents on SCR
CHP 2013-15 trafic accidents on SCR
, Assistant Planning Director, staff project manager
- Terry Scott
, District 4 Comissioner
Board of Supervisors
- Alfredo Pedroza
District 4 Supervisor
, Owner's Representative
, Community Outreach/Planning Consulltant (707-963-5832)
Architects: BAR Architects
, Ray WIlson (415-293-5766)
Engineers: Bartelt Engineering
, Paul Bartelt (707-258-1301)
Patch.com 2/11/20: Napa Valley Vintner From Wuhan China Donates 12K Masks
WineIndustryInsight 8/12/19: Acumen Napa Valley Appoints Mark Castoldi, Diana Schweiger
Raymond C Martinez LTE 4/23/19: It's a question of life and death
Bill Hocker LTE: 4/13/19: A decision in the face of evidence
NVR 4/2/19: Napa County opposes post-Atlas fire rehearing on Mountain Peak winery
Winebusiness.com 4/2/19: Alpha Omega Toasts Return of Winemaker Henrik Poulsen
NBBJ 3/1/18: Napa winery expands sales in California
Winebusiness.com 9/27/17: Atlas Peak residents file suit after Napa County Okays Mountain Peak Vineyards construction
NBBJ 9/8/17: Napa Valley's Acumen Wines names director of winemaking, executive manager
NVR 5/25/17: Acumen opens downtown gallery
NVR 5/25/17: Napa County approves remote, controversial Mountain Peak winery
Wines&Vines 5/15/17: A winery trend stalling?
NVR 1/14/17: Napa County Planning Commission approves Mountain Peak Winery
NVR 10/20/16: Continuances beget continuances for Napa's Mountain Peak winery project
NVR 7/21/16: Napa County grapples with remote winery proposal
Does Costco-sized winery belong atop Soda Canyon Road?
Soda Canyon winery project draws neighbors' ire
Groundwater pumping will be under county scrutiny this summer
Arger illegal tastings email
View a trip up Soda Canyon Road
Rock Crusher descending road
Dump truck decending road
Arger trip up road (part 1)
Worker caravan at the mailboxes (part 2)
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|Bill Hocker - Sep 22, 2018 9:21PM Share
Winebusiness.com 9/25/17: Atlas Peak residents file suit after Napa County Okays Mountain Peak Vineyards construction
As usual with wine industry reporting (much like governmental reviewing), there is no use of the word "tourism" or mention of the impact of tourism on the residential farming and small-town communities of wine country. "I came here to farm", Steven Reh says, as if this were about a "right to farm." This isn't about farming: the property has been a farm since 1992. The resistance to the project is about the invasive nature of tourism and the rural, small-town character of the communities it is in the process of destroying.
NVR 9/22/17: Mountain Peak winery opponents file lawsuit in Napa court
The appellants opposing the approval of the Mountain Peak Winery project contend that county Supervisors, in upholding the Planning Commission decision to approve the project without an Environmental Impact Report, have abused their discretion. The case is made here
The project was given a negative declaration by staff, supported by consultant's paid for by the developer, indicating that the project would generate less-than-significant environmental impacts. However, there are impacts: noise impacts, light impacts, impacts due to the remoteness and condition of the road, impacts to the water supply of the Rector Reservoir, impacts to the character of a remote uncommercialized community. Corresponding reports from the appellant's equally qualified consultants concluded that the impacts would be significant. Those conclusions were ignored. Also ignored were the signatures of over 150 residents on the sparsely populated road and over 800 residents of Napa County opposing the project.
Since 2010, over 120 new wineries and winery expansions have been approved
adding over 4 million gallons of winemaking capacity, more than 1.5 million visitor slots, more than 1 million sf of building area, hundreds of new employees, and perhaps 100's of thousands of vehicle trips on Napa's roads each year, all approved under negative declarations indicating that such increases will cause less-than-significant environmental impacts to life in Napa County. One new winery is being approved each month. Many residents, stuck in traffic or losing a favorite wooded hillside or favorite local shop, or unable to find an affordable place to live, know that the impacts of tourism development are not less-than-significant and that winery development is an inherent part of that urban development trend.
Wineries, at the top of Napa's tourism food chain, should be analyzed to a higher standard of review than just the opinions of wine industry developers and the county staff that they interact with on a daily basis. It is important to ensure that the cumulative urbanizing impacts of the many projects being proposed not destroy an environment not only treasured by residents, but that they not destroy the agricultural heritage at the base of the wine industry as well.
The appellants of the Mountain Peak project are not alone in recognizing the lack of appropriate environmental vetting that winery projects should receive. In a recent letter to the County Supervisors, the attorneys for a new organization have laid out the legal case
that the impacts of winery tourism were not adequately analyzed in the EIR for the 2008 General Plan and that the expansion of the tourism industry and its impacts on the quality of life throughout the county are at least partly the result.
The probability is that were it not for the use of the Mountain Peak winery as a tourism center, it is unlikely that the project would have been proposed. It is unquestionably a remote, rural location. The costs of building and staffing the winery are significant. The developer is currently making wine from the property's grapes and is currently selling it in a prominent tasting room in the center of downtown Napa
. Like most new wineries and winery expansions being approved, the principal intention is the increase of tourism visitation to boost the more moderate profits to be made in wine sales. The cumulative impact of the County's approval of such projects is to promote a further shift from an economy based the production of an agriculture product to an economy based on tourism. It is an impact that needs more serious vetting than it has heretofore received. With court intervention if necessary.
Napa Vision 2050 and Protect Rural Napa have sent out a mailer urging your help in insuring that the impacts of the Mountain Peak project are properly vetted and in further protecting Napa's rural heritage. A copy of it is here.
|Yeoryios Apallas - Oct 5, 2017 8:28PM Share
A frightening and potentially dangerous grass fire started one recent afternoon at close to the mouth of Soda Canyon Road and about a mile up this poorly maintained two-lane dead-end road.
But for the very aggressive response by the Cal Fire group (three fixed-wing aircraft and one helicopter response in the air and several fire trucks on the scene) this fire could have spread up the canyon and consumed valuable life, homes, and important trees and other habitat for our earth's creatures that call the area their home.
This fire once again illustrates rather dramatically why the Mountain Peak Winery project was poorly considered by the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission.
The Soda Canyon community put in the official county record through live testimony and tomes of documents in order to underscore the point that wineries such as MPW do not belong at the end of a pot-holed, shoulderless dead-end road in a box canyon that has a history of raging fires.
One can imagine, therefore, how frustrated we all felt when this project was approved by the Planning Commission and affirmed on appeal by the Board of Supervisors. All for what? A few more bucks for a financial investor who seemingly understands little about the dangers of the canyon?
Our public officials were elected to protect and preserve the community's safety from latent public dangers such as the MPW project represents. Regrettably they have monumentally failed their constituents in this regard.
Will it take a massive public tragedy to cause them to really examine the dangerous nature of this canyon and how unsuited it is for public, commercial, and hospitality activity? The Board of Supervisors should consider this fire as another wake up call.
I know that the MPW project is now in the hands of the wise judicial branch of our government, and the board cannot do much to affect the outcome of this project (or can it?). But they can at least have this fire (and the previous Soda Canyon fires) as a reason why the public interest trumps the vainglorious financial interests of the few.
NVR LTE version 10/5/17: Soda Canyon fire was wake-up call
|Stephen J Donoviel - Sep 8, 2017 3:37PM Share
As reflected in an article dated Aug. 14, August was a busy month for the Board of Supervisors, with five appeals scheduled regarding winery issues, one of which concerned the Mountain Peak Winery, a proposed facility at the top of Soda Canyon Road. The facility was initially approved by a 3-1 vote by the Planning Commission on a "negative declaration," i.e., without a proper environmental impact report consistent with the California Environment Quality Act.
Hundreds of people signed petitions against the project and four area residents filed formal appeals to the Board of Supervisors. Following a hearing in May, the board (with one member absent) tentatively voted to reject the appeals with a final vote subsequently scheduled for Aug. 22 The following is modified from a letter I submitted to the Board prior to that hearing but later learned that public input was not considered.
On Aug. 22, you had the opportunity to rectify what I think was an egregious error in your decision in May to tentatively approve the above facility that, if carried forward, will negatively impact the lives hundreds of citizens living off Soda Canyon Road and present serious risks to the water supply to thousands of others.
I think that the data, detailed analyses, references (submitted in attachments to appellants' appeals NCC form 2.88.050) and testimony presented by the appellants at hearing was far more convincing than that presented by the applicant and, were it a trial by jury, my bet on the finding would be in favor of the appellants beyond a shadow of a doubt.
One must sympathize with the residents and others who, on a daily or regular basis, have to drive the narrow, winding roads with only one access point. I fail to understand how you and some members of the Planning Commission and a few others acknowledge these hazardous conditions and yet can rationalize and dismiss the increased danger that will accompany the increased number vehicles that will result from the project.
Also, from the almost cavalier attitude and minimization of dealing with the issues surrounding the risk of wildfire, I gather those presenters had not witnessed the Atlas Peak fire or interviewed residents who lost homes or otherwise suffered through it.
The offered "voluntary condition of approval" is certainly in keeping with expectations and requirements for the AVA and Napa Valley branding (and seemed a determining factor for most of you) but, to me, it really offers almost nothing to the conversation of fire danger, road safety, water supply degradation for Rector dam and the host of other environmental problems addressed in detail in the appellants' presentations and never adequately rebutted by the county.
I must add that with this project, as well as others I've studied or read about, you (as well as the planning commission and city officials) seem to give little or no consideration to the cumulative impact each approved project adds to the degradation of ecology and quality of life in our county. Residents are complaining about traffic and other aspects of their quality of life, be it at town hall meetings, letters to the editor, testimony at hearings, in the locker room or other social gatherings, and it seems those drums are beating louder and louder the past few years.
I write to recommend and request that you red tag this project and note that in doing so you will fulfill your responsibilities as supervisors by protecting the environment and not increasing the risk of harm to the citizens living in the area.
NVR LTE version 9/7/17: Reconsider Mountain Peak decision
Yeoryios Apallas Motion to Reconsider Letter
|Bill Hocker - Aug 23, 2017 8:31PM Share
On August 22, 2017, with modifications to the Conditions of Approval in place, the Board of Supervisors denied the appeal of each of the four appellants in turn, and the Mountain Peak Winery was officially added to the other 123 wineries created or expanded in the County since 2010.
At the hearing Yeoryios Apallas requested that 2 documents be entered into the administrative record, each of which were material to the Mountain Peak decision and each of which came into being only after the tentative hearing decision in May. They illuminate how Sonoma and Napa county governments are avoiding the legally required review of the environmental impacts of their development approvals, like that of the Mountain Peak. The request was, of course, refused. They are:
Pattern and Practice of failing to Comply with CEQA regarding Winery Approvals
California Riverwatch vs. Sonoma County, et al.
Mountain Peak's downtown tasting room
Two days after the Mountain Peak BOS appeal hearing
on May 23rd, the Register reported that Acumen Wines, Mountain Peak's brand, has just opened their tasting room
downtown across from the Archer Hotel. How did we miss this? (We might have looked at their website, of course.) Not only is Mountain Peak successfully producing wine without a winery, but they have an extremely prominent location to sell their wines. (And we learned more about the owner of Mountain Peak in the article than we have in 3 years dealing with his developer. Our attempts to set up a meeting with the owner were ignored.) Napa County must have known about the tasting room. Did the Planning Commission, the BOS and the "wine industry" know that Mountain Peak already had a tourism venue to market their wines, rendering their request for out-of-scale visitation at their winery a debatable necessity? It is a better solution to the contentious issue of at-winery marketing, one that the county has lauded in other presentations. Why were they silent on it here? It was certainly an alternative that would have been considered under CEQA in a real EIR, and the exclusion of its existence prior to the county's review is, from our standpoint, equivalent to hiding exculpatory evidence from defendants in a trial. It is a question that perhaps a judge should answer.
A downtown tasting room at the entry to Napa's largest hotel is, of course, a significant bit of knowledge to counter an argument that Mountain Peak needs 14,575 yearly visitors and 19 daily employees coming 6 miles up a dead end road to insure their success in selling their product. Not to mention the benefit to the environment: The tasting room is 11 miles from the winery. At 2.7 visitors per car and say 10 hospitality employees, 199,059 vehicle miles would be saved each year by not using the winery as a tasting room. That's 8 trips around the earth, and 82 metric tons of CO2 (411 gram/mi
This was the second Mountain Peak surprise in 2 days. At the hearing we learned that Supervisor Dillon, whose commissioner was the dissenting vote at the planning commission hearing, would not be attending the appeal hearing. Chair Ramos reminded us that it is incumbent on citizens to be knowledgable about all publicly published information, and that the documentation indicating that she would be out of the county was to be found in a BOS agenda
line item from the previous week. It didn't occur to the county to add that information at the time that the Mountain Peak agenda was published 5 days before the hearing.
We were also surprised a few weeks earlier when, a few days after the planning commission approved an increase in the capacity of The Caves at Soda Canyon and approved their bootlegged portal and patio, the property, increased immeasurably in value due to the approvals, was put up for sale. Did the commissioners know? Residents, who spent enormous amounts of time and money is making a counter argument against the sleazy nature of the project from its inception, were left agog. Did the commissioners and the county and the "wine industry" know of the impending sale?
There is a sense that much of what happens between the county government and members of the wine industry operates sub rosa. The county exercises due diligence to provide open access to documents and public involvement in the planning process, and yet this is a one-industry county and the daily interactions of the dominant industry and its regulators is a bond that mere citizens can never hope to break into. (A couple of Mountain Peak's consultants started their presentations with a bit of jovial banter with the Supes. Toward the appellants the Supes seemed to have only stern looks and words.) In a world in which the dominant industry provides benefits and a sense of well being for the county's citizens, that sort of cronyism is acceptable. But now we find that the development that the industry continues to pursue and that the county continues to approve is having impacts that are definitely not a benefit to the quality of life of the rest of us. And the anger at a government unwilling to protect the interests of its citizens against the monied interests of its major industry is continuing to build.
Over 800 people in the county signed a petition opposing the Mountain Peak project including most of the residents of Soda Canyon Road. Sup. Pedroza's lament during the hearing about decisions being perceived as "either business or residents" is unfortunately not just perception, it has become the reality, with residents on the short end every single time.
There seems to be a sense among some that last November's election was the definitive rejection of the importance of citizen resistance to development projects throughout the county such as Woolls Ranch, Yountville Hill, Walt Ranch, Girard, Syar, the Woodland Initiative, Mountain Peak, and that we are now in the season of elections having consequences (as we are nationally!) And they may be right. Only time will tell. But thus far the injuries to a way of life have not been written off by those immediately impacted and the resistance and anger, at least in this quarter, are more keenly felt than ever.
|Stephen J Donoviel - Aug 21, 2017 5:11PM |
[Letter to Napa County Supervisors 8/21/17]
A final Appeal on Mountain Peak
August 20, 2017
Belia Ramos, Chair
Napa County Board of Supervisors
1195 Third Street
Napa, CA 94559
re: Mountain Peak Winery Appeal Decision
Dear Ms. Ramos and Members of the Board:
On Tuesday August 22, 2017, you have the fortunate opportunity to rectify what I think was an egregious error in your decision in May to tentatively approve the above project which, if carried forward, will negatively impact the lives hundreds of citizens living off Soda Canyon Road and present serious risks to the water supply to thousands of others. I think that the data, detailed analyses, references (submitted in attachments to appellants NCC form 2.88.050) and testimony presented by the appellants at hearing was far more convincing than that presented by the applicant and, were it trial by jury, my bet on the finding would be in favor of the appellants beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The fact that enormous amounts of matter from the tunnel diggings will be spread near feeder streams to the water supply for Yountville and the Veterans Home creates a significant increased risk of contamination--a colorful portrayal of this type of problem was recently shown in the Napa Register (August 11, 2017). This increased risk, I think, far outweighs any positive environment attributes of LEED construction touted by the applicant’s spokesperson.
I sympathize with the residents and others who, on a daily or regular basis, have to drive the narrow, winding roads with only one access point. I fail to understand how you and some members of the Planning Commission and a few others acknowledge the situation and yet can rationalize and dismiss the increased danger to drivers/residents that will accompany the increased vehicles that will result from the project. Also, from the almost cavalier attitude and minimization of dealing with the issues surrounding the risk of wildfire, I gather those presenters had not witnessed the Atlas Peak fire or interviewed residents who lost homes or otherwise suffered through it. There was a suggestion that monies for road surface repairs might be forth coming next year which I’m sure would be welcomed. However, the bigger safety issues, it seems, concern the fact that there is only one point of entry/egress to the neighborhoods/residences and the width of the road (for which widening is undoubtedly out of question) is not conducive to evacuation concurrent with transport of fire trucks, other equipment, etc., and would be further hampered with increased traffic requested by the applicant, thus increasing the danger for all concerned. While, I have made only occasional drives up Soda Canyon Road, one time was a garbage pickup day which was enough to demonstrate the perils of driving the route and obvious dangers if there were a wildfire (or being on the road facing drivers who had spent the day wine tasting). The offered “voluntary condition of approval” is certainly in keeping with expectations and requirements for the AVA and NV branding (and seemed a determining factor for most of you) but it really offers almost nothing to the conversation of fire danger, road safety, water supply degradation for Rector and the host of other environmental problems which are addressed in detail in appellants presentations and never adequately rebutted by the County.
I must add that with this project, as well as others I’ve studied or read about, you (as well as the Planning Commission and City Officials) seem to give little or no consideration to the cumulative impact each approved project adds to the degradation of ecology and quality of life in our county. Residents are complaining about their quality of life, be it at town hall meetings, letters to the editor, testimony at hearings, in the locker room or other social gatherings and, while we have lived here for fifty years, the drums are beating louder and louder the past few years.
I write to recommend and request that you RED TAG this project and note that in doing so you will fulfill your responsibilities as Supervisors by protecting the environment and not increasing the risk of harm to the citizens living in the area.
Thank you for considering my input
Stephen J. Donoviel
|Shelle Wolfe - Jun 8, 2017 11:11PM |
[First published as an LTE to the Register, 6/8/17: Voices, not grapes, get crushed
Voices, not grapes, get crushed
As expected, Napa citizen concerns were once again squelched, their voices disrespected during the May 23 appeal hearing with the Board of Supervisors on Mountain Peak Winery – Napa’s most recent 4-0 approval by the board of yet another 100,000-gallon commercial winery event center that is primarily focused on tourism -- 14,575 annual visitors to be precise -- and will add some 40,000 additional annual auto and big rig trips to the already dangerous, dead-end Soda Canyon Road.
This remotely located commercial winery is proposed by an extremely wealthy family whose members are not local residents and have no relationship to, or concern about, Napa and its citizens. We elect the supervisors whom we assume represent us and our concerns, not foreign investors.
Supervisors? No. Caretakers of a corrupt system, calculating appearances to seem caring and absences to avoid accountability (or perhaps to avoid upsetting a winery consultant and longtime friend?) They pretend to listen to those of us they represent, all the while complaining that we, the citizens to whom they are supposed to answer, are submitting too many documents, too many pages of evidence.
Environmental impacts? Not according to the supervisors; a silent nod of approval to the applicant’s phony focus on environmental purity propaganda. These elected officials are pretenders: pretending to care, to listen, to engage, to “reach out.”
Instead, they complain we are too late with information, annoying them with facts about public safety (639 government reported incidents on Soda Canyon Road in 2014, 2015, and 2016), reminding them of the dangers of driving Soda Canyon Road (which is in horrible shape and twists and turns with steep hills where big rigs and tour buses are regularly stuck for hours), and environmental impacts (removing and heaping nearly 2 million cubic feet of earth near two blue-line streams that feed directly into the Rector Reservoir water supply), slapping down the appellant’s request for a 5-minute recess before having to rebut numerous misleading statements made by the applicant – “no!” – but quickly thereafter providing a 5-minute recess to review new documentation provided by the applicant.
These pretenders disdain our very presence. Just get the vote over so we can go home. These citizens have already wasted enough of our time.
In a display of arrogance and disrespect, our own elected supervisor for District 4, Alfredo Pedroza, personally and gleefully made four separate motions to deny each appeal, to silence our voices with grinning disdain, obviously his mind long ago made up; campaign payback? Deny his voice in the next election, and maybe then we, the people, will finally be heard.
Whose government is this, anyway?
|Bill Hocker - May 24, 2017 7:56AM Share
NVR 5/25/17: Napa County approves remote, controversial Mountain Peak winery
On May 23, 2017 the Napa County Board of Supervisors denied the 4 appeals of the Planning Commission's use permit approval for the Mountain Peak Winery made in January.
The agenda and documents for the hearing are here
The Staff agenda letter is here
The video of the hearing is here
The community powerpoint is here
The four resident's appeals were each denied in turn 4-0 with the appellant's own supervisor, Sup. Pedroza, making the motion to deny. Sup. Dillon was - unexpectedly, from the standpoint of residents - absent from the proceedings. (She did not mention that she would be absent when we led her on a site visit 5 weeks before the hearing.) While her vote may have been no different than the other supervisors, her insights into the long history of industry-resident relations and intimate knowledge of WDO issues would have been an illuminating part of the discussion. And since it was her commissioner who voted against the project, it was especially important to have her input here. We asked for a continuance based on her absence to no avail.
As they did at the first Planning Commission hearing, a last minute concession was offered up to ease the decision in their favor and provide some cover for the decision-makers. Last time it was the elimination of marketing events. This time it was a "75% estate grape" provision
to be added to the conditions of approval linking approved capacity to the amount grapes produced on the "estate". I don't know if the county has an official definition of an estate, but the Napa Valley Vintners provides this definition
of "estate-bottled" when used on wine labels.
In the discussion the implication was that the "estate" would include the winery property plus the 180 acre parcel up the road owned outright by Mountain Peak. Selling the larger parcel would mean a proportionate reduction in the approved capacity under the use-permit. Would the approved capacity also increase if Mountain Peak buys another parcel? Would the approved capacity diminish if the winery parcel is sold separately? More importantly, visitation numbers are based on a business plan projection to insure the sale of the yearly production. If the production drops considerably shouldn't the visitation numbers also go down. Does the business model morph into one based solely on serving expensive wine-paired lunches? There were immediate questions about how to work out this provision in a meaningful and enforceable way, in our minds and the minds of supervisors.
It was agreed that the finalization of their denials was contingent on the exact wording of the provision to be worked out by the Aug 15th BOS meeting. It may be a very trend-setting provision for winery development in remote areas in order to avoid the custom-crush fiasco of the Caves at Soda Canyon
(that will be making its way to the Board in the future).
The "estate" discussion precipitated an interest by Sup. Wagenknecht to perhaps consider standards for "remote" wineries. While the suggestion seemed a bit off-the-cuff, Dir. Morrison seemed eager to take on the assignment. Given this letter to the planning commission
two years ago prior to APAC and his valiant efforts there to create predictable development standards
for wineries, I want to believe that the fire for true long term planning consistency regarding winery development was not stamped out by the BOS's "case-by-case" cave-in to the industry after APAC.
The hearing went from 10:00 until 5:30. Our side, led superbly by Anthony Arger, made 8 individual presentations limited to 2 hours total. Chair Ramos, much like Chair Gill at planning commission meetings, was a stern disciplinarian on time limits for us concerned citizens. (The professionals, representing development interests, make their points efficiently. Citizens, often less disciplined, are frequently cut off mid presentation.) That sense of sternness carried over into all interactions with the appellants (despite the fact that the hearing was on their dime). By contrast when the Mountain Peak representatives approached the podium there was often a bit of jovial banter between the rep and the Board prior to the presentation. This has probably always been the case, but it takes on a new ominousness in an era in which the wine industry is making its disdain for the interests of residents
more apparent than ever after last year's APAC put downs and the election. One budding developer of an event center on Dry Creek Road, and author of the capitalist manifesto
on winery development during the APAC hearing, was there to cheer on the Supes.
Sup. Pedroza lamented the current "business or residents" dichotomy of county relations, and he may have been behind the "estate" condition as an industry-acceptable (evidenced by Michelle Benvenuto's silence on the issue) mitigation of resident concern, but, as has often been the case, the words of concern don't correlate with real constituent support against the interests of the industry. As long as the Planning Commission and the BOS continue to side with the industry in every single decision they render, resident anger at their government will only increase, and the resistance will continue.
|Steve Chilton - May 10, 2017 7:17PM Share
May 9, 2017
David Morrsison, Director
Napa County Planning, Building & Environmental Services Dept.
1195 Third Street, Suite 210,
RE: SUPPORTING APPEAL OF NAPA COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION ACTION APPROVING MOUNTAIN PEAK WINERY-USE PERMIT #P13-00320-UP
Dear Napa County Board of Supervisors,
My name is Steve Chilton and I own property on Soda Canyon Road, Napa, CA 94558.
My wife and I constructed our home on a small acreage that has been in her family for nearly 100 years. While designing the house we worked around the 100+ year old oaks and Soda Creek. No oaks were removed for the house nor was the creek impacted. We practice positive environmental stewardship and expect the County and others on Soda Canyon Road to do the same. I recently retired from a career of 35 years with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I strongly support the Appeal of the Napa County Planning Commission approval of the Mountain Peak project and request that you uphold the appeal.
The Planning Commission demonstrated an arbitrary decision making process when they considered the Mountain Peak Project and other projects such as the Flynnville Winery Project. The Flynnville Project was a smaller winery (60,000 gallons a year versus 100,000 gallons per year for the Mountain Peak winery), that was bordered on four sides by roads, including Highway 29 and was essentially a redevelopment that was opposed by several neighbors (I believe four neighbors testified in opposition to the project). Mountain Peak is larger, is six plus miles up a narrow, steep dead end road, will have numerous impacts upon the environment and is opposed by over 900 citizens. At the urging of the Planning Commission, the Flynnville applicants reduced the winery to 40,000 gallons per year and the Commission approved it.
What did those four opponents bring to the Commission that caused them to require this reduction in gallons per year that hundreds of opponents to Mountain Peak did not? Or was it merely a matter of clout or personal influence?
Additionally, the Commission abused their discretion when it found that the Mountain Peak Project will not have a significant effect upon the environment and adopted a Negative Declaration. The Board of Supervisors must reverse the decision of the Planning Commission and deny the project or remand it for further consideration.
The size, scope and lack of environmental documentation of the project dictates that an Environmental Impact Report following the requirements of CEQA is mandatory. A negative declaration for a project this large and with its concurrent impacts upon water quality and quantity, wildlife, traffic, public safety, noise and vegetation cannot be supported by the facts. The Initial Study Checklist includes the finding that the proposed project could not have a significant effect on the environment. Section IV. A) of the checklist shows that the project will have a less than significant effect (not a no impact determination) upon unnamed species. The Rector Creek Watershed contains yellow-legged frogs and California giant salamanders, both listed species of special concern, but the negative declaration checklist mentions neither. Either county staff did not conduct a thorough survey of the area or they relied on consultants hired by the project proponents who apparently limited their survey to present a report that supported their client and not the facts. Also the California Red-Legged Frog is a federally listed threatened species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and populations have been identified in Wragg Creek near Capell Valley Road. Similar, if not higher quality habitat occurs in the Rector Creek watershed.
Did county staff conduct or request a survey of possible special concern or threatened populations within the watershed? What is the basis for the statement that the project will have a less than significant effect rather than no impact?
CEQA regulations require that counties acting as lead agencies circulate CEQA documents to all Responsible/Trustee Agencies for comment. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDF&W) is one of those responsible agencies. Apparently the County did not follow that regulation prior to the Planning Commission approving the Mountain Peak Project. The CDF&W was not informed and therefore did not comment on the CEQA document. It is unknown what they would have commented or informed the County of and just maybe would have averted the need for this hearing and additional costs to the County and its citizens.
This apparent violation of CEQA regulations and state law on its own is reason enough for the Board of Supervisors to reverse the Planning Commission decision, require an EIR and rehear the entire project. Continuing to support this project without knowing the full impacts could open the county to challenges from wildlife advocates such as the Center for Biological Diversity and others.
Thank you for your time,
|Bill Hocker - Mar 1, 2017 9:26AM Share
The excavation of 33,000 sf of caves and a crush pad on the Mountain Peak site, and the necessary topsoil clearings, redistribution of the excavated spoils and replacement of topsoil, means that a lot of earth will be moved in the project. The amount is enough to justify a great deal of concern in terms of soil runoff into the watercourses adjacent and bisecting the site, and of the impact of dust on neighbors surrounding the constricted site. How much earth will be moved?
Mountain Peak Civil Plans
Mountain Peak Updated Cave Plans
Cave Feasibility Report
from table on Civil Plan UP4
and Cave Plan
| Cave excavation: 21070 cy x 1.4 bulking ||29500 cy|
|Other excavation (crush pad, stormwater basin, parking lot?):|
14000 cy x 1.4? bulking
| 19600 cy|
|Total excavated spoils to be redistributed:|| 49,100 cy|
Fill from Civil Plan UP1
|Spoils fill areas shown on Civil Plan UP1: 10,100 cy + 5,900 cy ||16,000 cy|
|Spoils fill NOT NOTED on plans: 49100-16,000 cy|
destined for the service driveway and
berms at southernmost area of the site
|33,100* cy |
*Will the service driveway and berms around parking actually absorb twice as much in spoils as the designated spoils areas? This does beg unanswered questions about the ability of the site to accommodate all of the spoils.
Topsoil removal and replacement
Note that the amount of dirt to be excavated and repositioned on the site is much larger than just the cuts that produce spoils. ~ 2 feet of topsoil must be removed in all areas to receive spoils, stored on the site and then recovered over spoils.
From the site plan it appears that about 7 acres (Includes some guessing around the winery) will have to be stripped of their topsoil and replaced after the distribution of spoils.
|Removal, storage and replacement of 6.9 acres of topsoil, 2 feet deep|| 22,300 cy|
Total amount of earth being moving around the site
49,100 cy spoils + 22,300 cy topsoil
In all about 71,400 cy of topsoil and spoils must be moved around the site. To put that into perspective, if the earth being moved around on the site were piled on a football field (including end zones) the height would be 33 feet, the height of a 3 story building.
Football field = 57,600 sf
Dirt piled 33 ft high: ~ 71,400 cy
Another way to put that amount of dirt into perspective: it is a volume equivalent to 3.25 Napa County Buildings.
County Building = ~ 16,500 sf
If 36 ft high: ~ 22,000 cy each
|Bill Hocker - Jan 12, 2017 11:35PM Share
Video of the hearing
NVR 1/4/17: Napa County Planning Commission approves Mountain Peak Winery
After almost three years since the fateful day that neighbors on Soda Canyon Road discovered a tourism winery was planned for their remote rural community, the County Planning Commission has approved the project, their first approval of 2017. The vote was 3 to 1 with Heather Phillips' seat still unfilled.
Comm. Cottrell voted to deny, arguing that the level of visitation was inappropriate for the remote location, following the Supervisors direction to planning commissioners to consider the remoteness and access constraints in determining visitation numbers. It was, I think, a courageous vote in support of residents interests and the county's rural legacy in a county government and in an era that is ever more dominated by developers.
There will be an appeal to the Board of Supervisors. Perhaps they can summon a bit of that courage as well.
The approval came despite 900 county-wide signatures of opposition
to the project, including the majority of the Soda Canyon Road community. Unfortunately, the interests of many concerned citizens in the preservation their rural communities appear to count for very little against good-life entrepreneurs and a tourism industry pretending to protect agriculture with ever more buildings and parking lots.
In perhaps one of the few unexpected moments of the day, Comm. Basayne asked County Road Engineer Rick Marshall about the comparison made by the planning department between this project and several other 100,000 gal wineries on mountain roads in the county. My thoughts on his very informative responses are related separately here.
|Glenn & Judy Schreuder - Jan 5, 2017 9:28AM Share
[Presentation given to the Planning Commission on Jan 4th, 2017 at hearing for Mountain Peak Use Permit P13-00320
My name is Glenn Schreuder and my family has lived in upper Soda Canyon continuously since 1956. I would like to present some comparisons to the Proposed Mountain Peak Project that have been made which give some context to the appropriateness of the size and visitation requested for the project.
Comparison 1: from applicant
I wish to respectfully draw your attention to the "Comparative Analysis of Daily Visitation" contained on page 14 of the 18 page applicant's Project Statement
, as revised on March 15th, 2016. Five Wineries are listed in "Comparative Analysis of Daily Visitation": Chappellet, Ladera,Oakville Grade, Schramsberg and Somerston.
Purportedly selected for their location on "Hillside Roads", well sort of hillside roads, but I'll get to that shortly. The analysis also represents that the daily visitation for MPW is 58% of the norm when compared to these five wineries of similar Gallons per Year.
6.1 miles, Dead End Road
As shown in the above chart, the analysis clearly cherry picks 100K Gallons per Year (GPY) "hillside" wineries with material visitation entitlements that are not located on dead-end, one way in and one way out rural, residential roads:
- Chappellet: Located on CA Hwy 128 (aka Sage Canyon Road, NOT on a dead end road and NOT in the heart of a rural neighborhood, it's actually a driveway on a state highway toward Winters, CA.
- Ladera: Located on two-way in/out White Cottage Road a short distance from Angwin (a census-designated place with a population of ~3,000)
- Oakville Grade: Located on the two-way in/out Oakville Grade, not a dead-end.
- Schramsberg: Located up private Schramsberg Road off of CA Hwy 29 (not a neighborhood, a private road to the winery).
- Somerston: Located again on CA Hwy 128 (Sage Canyon Road) NOT a dead-end road and NOT in the heart of a rural neighborhood).
As a result this analysis is, in essence, comparing five apples to one orange which is misleading.
Comparison 2 from County:
Further, in regard to the County-created Exhibit F "Updated Winery Comparison, 100,000 GPY"
, of the 18 wineries listed in the comparison, 14 are indicated to be on the "valley floor" and only 4 are indicated to be "hillside" wineries.
6.1 miles, Dead End Road
According to Google Maps:
- Kent Rasmussen Winery has its tasting room in the Napa Valley Corporate Park.
- Pahlmeyer Winery has its tasting room at 811 St Helena Hwy #202, St Helena,CA
- Trinchero Napa Valley also its tasting room at 100 Main St, St Helena, CA, and
- Moss Creek Winery is located at Moskowite Corners, at the corner of Hwy 128 and Steele Canyon Rd
None of these four wineries appear to really be 'hillside' wineries at all, like the MPW project is. While some of their vineyards may potentially be somewhere in the hills, three have tasting rooms on the valley floor and Moss Creek, while remote to the valley floor, is right off CA Hwy 128 on the way to Winters and Davis, CA.
While all 18 wineries appear have use permits for 100,000 GPY, and varying levels of annual visitations, none of these 18 wineries are substantially similar to the MPV project in terms of (a) being in a very remote dead-end box canyon location and (b) having very limited access in terms of a safe, properly maintained roadway to serve it. I'm really unclear what conclusion can be drawn from this exhibit other than if MPV were on this list it would be a non-homogenous member by way of its inherently out-sized proportions in comparison to roadway access.
Comparison 3: Atlas Peak
A more appropriate comparison would be to compare wineries up the one other long, dead-end road in the county, Atlas Peak Road:
6.1 miles, Dead End Road
- Kongsgaard 9.4 miles up Atlas Peak road, 12,000 GPY, no visitation allowed.
- Alta 9.0 miles up Atlas Peak road, 5,000 GPY, 208 visitors allowed per year.
- Ripe Peak 8.8 miles up Atlas Peak road, 1,500 GPY, 1,456 visitors allowed per year.
- Vin Roc 8.1 miles up Atlas Peak road, 18,000 GPY, 416 visitors allowed per year.
- William Hill 1.4 miles up Atlas Peak road, 720,000 GPY, 13,000 visitors allowed per year.
(Note that William Hill Winery is almost on the valley floor, adjacent to the Silverado Countyr Club, and even then only has only 13K/year visitors allowed. It is almost certainly not by accident that a winery of this scope and scale is not 6+ miles up a dead-end road like Atlas Peak or Soda Canyon).
Comparison 4: Soda Canyon Rd
And another more "apples to apples" comparison would be to compare MPW to other wineries on the dead-end Soda Canyon Road itself:
6.1 miles, Dead End Road
With the exception of Antica Napa Valley, which owns approximately 1,200 acres of contiguous land at the very end of Soda Canyon Road and therefore can only be compared in terms of its parcel size to production and visitation ratios, all of the wineries on Soda Canyon Road have production levels of between 12,000 and 30,000 gallons. And all, including Antica, have visitation levels from none to about a third of the Applicant's request.
It is clear from this comparison that the wineries selected for comparative analysis in the applicants project statement are only comparable to the extent that they have the same GPY and varying degrees if visitation, otherwise their locations are far away in terms of distance from Upper Soda Canyon and are not remotely comparable in terms of the traffic impacts that Soda Canyon road (as a dead-end road) and its residents would suffer.
|Bill Hocker - Dec 31, 2016 3:28AM Share
[This is my letter to the planning commission in rebuttal to the LEED presentation made by Mountain Peak's architect at the Jul 20th, 2016, hearing. Despite my best efforts, some commissioners still cited the certification while approving the project.]
A very happy new year to you all. My sympathies for having to start out the year on such a controversial project. And my apologies for the usual last minute letter.
Much has been made of the LEED certification on this project. I very much enjoyed Mr. Wilson's presentation on the nature of the LEED process at the last meeting. And especially his appreciation of the beautiful character of the site and of the need for a low-impact project.
Low-impact is a relative term. In an area that is one of the most remote, quite and, at night, dark places in the county, impacts that may be "low-impact" or "less-than-significant" elsewhere are keenly felt. While burying most of the project is a good start, other aspects fall a bit short from the standpoint of those who must live side by side with it. There is nothing low-impact about the 44000 trips up and down the road each year. Or of the many visitors and employees and the festive commotion they will bring that break the quiet of the place, or the sight of the parking lots and solar panels the water treatment refinery now added to the vineyard landscape. Also not low-impact is the vast amount of dirt to be moved around on virtually every square foot the site, and of the mogul landscape of berms that have disfigured the smooth hillside at the top of the site beyond recognition.
I sensed that the Commission was enthused about the LEED certification and that it might be an influencing factor in your approval. It was an important part of the previous presentation and is referred to often by the applicant including in the first sentence of the project narrative. If you do intend to let the LEED certification weigh in your decision, as the applicant seems to assume, the LEED data need to be a part of the public record for all to discuss before a decision is made.
We should all want energy efficient buildings, but LEED certification seems, in fact, to be a very inconsistant predictor of the actual performance. In my first letter to the planning department
, I cited this rather extensive article
noting that the rating can translate into tax breaks, marketing or public opinion advantage, or a planning commission approval that justifies the high cost of the certificate. Whether the building actually lives up to its LEED certification is often forgotten after the project is built. There's really no penalty for not meeting the standards. In my email to you this morning I also included links to several research papers (below) that show a wide disparity in actual performance compared to LEED predictions and to non-LEED buildings. We and the county should have the opportunity to review the details on which the certificate was given before you render judgement, just as we would for any other consultant's report.
The LEED scorecard
is below. Each of the credits on the scorecard are described on the LEED Credit Library here
Given an opportunity, one might wish to question the reasoning on points awarded in certain areas.
For example, concerning the topic "Optimize energy performance - 18 points": While the use of cool cave air to condition the tasting room space was mentioned by Mr. Wilson, I might want to see how that compares to the energy needed to keep those cave fans running every day, or the energy expended to compensate for those very large windows facing the setting sun that provide so much daylight. I might also want to be sure that a somewhat modest solar array (from what I can guess from the plans), which probably accounts for most of the points in this category, can provide 70% of the energy needed for an industrial and commercial facility of this scale.
Or on another topic like "Building life-cycle impact reduction - 5 points" which includes historic, abandoned or blighted building reuse, I would wonder why a perfectly good 1992, 4-story "chateau" built and owned by Jan Krupp in his rise to the heights of the wine industry (definitely historic) would be torn down and his impressive cypress-lined driveway bulldozed. The viticulture building probably gets some points but since it is supposed to remain a vitaculture office, that's kind of like GHG credits for not cutting down trees.
The first topic on the scorecard has the most relevance to this project however: "Location and Transportation - 16 points"
It includes sub-topics like :
"Surrounding density and diverse uses - 5 points - Intent: to conserve land and protect farmland and wildlife habitat by encouraging development in areas with existing infrastructure. To promote walkability, and transportation efficiency and reduce vehicle distance traveled. To improve public health by encouraging daily physical activity."
And "Access to Quality transportation - 5 points - Intent: To encourage development in locations shown to have multimodal transportation choices or otherwise reduced motor vehicle use, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and other environmental and public health harms associated with motor vehicle use."
It should be noted that this LEED disinterest in remote locations corresponds nicely with the Supervisors injunction to you in the 2010 WDO addendum to consider the remoteness of location in reviewing on-site marketing and visitation, and in the General Plan's policy CON-65(e) to consider "GHG emissions produced by the traffic expected to be generated by the project".
As I pointed out in my previous letter, the amount of energy to be saved in the building through LEED compliance might be compared to the energy spent on the 44,000 trips up and down the 6 mile road each year, 260,000 miles, 10 trips around the earth each year just to get to the project from the Trail. Remoteness is at the heart of this inappropriately ambitious project and of the very large amount of energy consumed in accessing it.
There is still one energy reduction technique that LEED doesn't give points for: not building the project in the first place. Note that the applicant's grapes are already being made into wine and that wine is already being sold. Why build another unnecessary winery in the county? The applicant may argue that wineries are now necessary marketing tools, or that there is more control over the product. I would counter with the example of the vintner putting in a vineyard just up the road from the project. Dave Phinney, creator of "The Prisoner" wine, has sold two high-end wine brands for a total of $350 million. (an article is here
) Both wines were made from contract grapes in custom crush wineries. Were the applicant to spend the millions of dollars earmarked for the construction and overhead of a winery on less impactful marketing of his wines, I suspect he could also build a multi million dollar wine business. One without the environmental and neighborhood problems that tourist venues are bringing to residents throughout the county. It would be a truly low-impact, environmentally praiseworthy solution.
3460 Soda Canyon Road
Articles on the value (or lack of value) of LEED certification:
USA Today 6/13/13: In U.S. building industry, is it too easy to be green?
Newsham et al - Do LEED-certified buildings save energy? Yes, but
Scofield - Do LEED-certified buildings save energy? Not really
Scofield - Are U.S. 'Green Buildings' Really Saving Energy? The Facts May Surprise You
Scofield - No Evidence LEED Building Certification is saving Primary Energy
Gifford - A Better Way to Rate Green Buildings
Stephans - Do LEED buildings save energy? Yes, no, it depends
Swearingen LEED-Certified Buildings Are Often Less Energy-Efficient Than Uncertified Ones
Lehrer et al - Occupant satisfaction with indoor environmental quality in green buildings
Diamond et al - Evaluating the Energy Performance of the First Generation of LEED-Certified Commercial Buildings
|Bill Hocker - Dec 29, 2016 6:57AM Share
Update 12/29/16: The second day of the Planning Commission hearing on the Mountain Peak project will take place on Jan 4th 2017, beginning at 9:00am at the County chambers at 1195 3rd St, Napa. Please join us there!
Jan 4th 2017 Meeting Agenda and Documents (w/ revised conditions of approval and even more correspondence)
July 20th Meeting Agenda and Docs (w/ meeting pdfs and correspondence)
County website's Mountain Peak page (Mar 2016) (documents)
Applicant's proposed changes to the marketing plan
Staff Agenda Letter
Anthony Arger letter and dossier (35mb file)
Neighborhood powerpoint presentation at Jul 20th hearing
Video of the Jul 20th hearing
Transcript of the Jul 20th hearing
County Initial Study EIR Checklist
The Planning Commission is to decide on the use permit application for the Mountain Peak Winery on Soda Canyon Road on Wednesday, Jan 4th 2017. IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO ACT TO SAVE the Soda Canyon/Loma Vista Community!
The Planning Commission Hearing to approve or deny the use permit application for the Mountain Peak Winery proposal on Soda Canyon Road.
The Planning Commission Hearing Agenda for the Jan 4th meeting with documents is here
The County staff discussion of the project from the Jul 20th meeting is here
County Administration Building, 1195 Third Street
, Suite 305, Napa, CA
Wednesday, Jan 4th, 2017 starting at 9:00AM
The use permit sought by Mountain Peak would allow a massive (100,000 gallon) winery event center to be built 6.1 miles up Soda Canyon Road. Developed for the owner by The Reserve Group
, this project will attract 18,486 (now 14575) visitors on an annual basis, allow for 78 (now 3!) marketing events per year, add 19-27 employees per day on the road, and construct caves the size of a large Safeway grocery store (more than 33,000 square feet!), making Mountain Peak one of the larger winery projects currently being proposed in the Napa Valley. A project of this size gives unprecedented visitor and event allowances over most other Napa wineries, and especially over all existing Soda Canyon wineries. The community must unite to stop this oversized, aggressive, and unprecedented project that could truly destroy this remote and peaceful neighborhood.
What You Can Do:
1. Attend the continued Hearing. Strength in numbers!
You don't have to speak - just being there sends a message about your commitment to live in a commercial-free neighborhood.
2. Write and submit a letter to John McDowell
preferably 7 days before the hearing to be included in the document package for the meeting. (Letters may be submitted up till the end of the hearing and will be included as documents added after the meeting.)
3. Sign and return the Petition of Opposition!
4. Donate to Protect Rural Napa
For more information on this massive project, visit
- Please donate via PayPal online at http://ProtectRuralNapa.org/
- Or make a donation check payable to "Protect Rural Napa" with memo line "MPV"
- And mail your donation to:
Protect Rural Napa
P.O. Box 2385
Yountville, CA 94599
If you have any questions, please email, email@example.com
The future of Soda Canyon Road is up to you!
A complete collection of correspondence to date is among the documents on the County Planning Commission 7/20/16 Agenda
item devoted to Mountain peak
|Diane Shepp - Oct 11, 2016 5:56PM Share
11 October 2016
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.
|Bill Hocker - Jul 21, 2016 8:33PM Share
NVR 7/21/16: Napa County grapples with remote winery proposal
On July 20th the Mountain Peak project was presented to the Planning Commission by the planning department and the applicant. In a surprise move (at least to me), the applicant's representative, Donna Oldford, proffered a reduction in the tourism component of the project. Gone were the 6-per-month evening events. In this subsequent email
the exact proposed reductions were itemized to exclude 3911 visitors/year from the previous 18486 bringing visitation down to 14575/yr. The elimination of the frequent evening events were a significant and beneficial change to the marketing plan.
As Chair Basayne opened the meeting to public comments, vintner Stu Smith barged to the front of the line to voice his law-and-order support given to every tourist attraction to come before the county, and then the residents of Soda Canyon Road spent most of the day voicing their concern about the changes to their rural lives that a tourism facility in their midst will bring. The commissioners expressed some displeasure at the amount of material added to the administrative record at the last minute (see the Arger dossier linked below) but agreed that a continuance was needed to insure due process, and their day of decision was continued until Oct 19th.
The word "remote" in the NVR article is the key to understanding what this project really represents. As tourist attractions are being proposed all over the county, promoted as necessary for the survival of the wine industry but really representing just an expansion the tourism industry, with new projects continuously being reviewed (46 at present) and approved (97 since 2010) by the planning commission, this project still raises the question: are there places so untouched by the county's commitment to tourism that we should even ask if maintaining their living community of residents is more important than retooling them as a tourist experiences.
County website's Mountain Peak page (Mar 2016) (documents)
July 20th Meeting Agenda and Docs (w/ meeting pdfs and correspondence)
Staff Agenda Letter
Anthony Arger letter and dossier (35mb file)
Neighborhood powerpoint presentation at hearing
Video of the hearing
Transcript of the hearing
County Initial Study EIR Checklist
|Mui Ho - Jul 20, 2016 2:00PM Share
Dear Planning Director,
We are property owners adjacent to Mountain Peak Winery and we are appalled that a new entertainment/event winery of such size is proposed next to our house. This 25 employees establishment is not the family owned winery which was characteristic of Napa Valley that we all love, it is big business - the kind of big corporate winery that is crowding out the traditional family owned wineries.
Our major worries are :
1 Noise pollution - the continuing industrial noise from the condensers and exhaust fans etc is not the usual farming noises like harvesting trucks happen during harvest time. It is continuous, 24 hours a day. This humming noise will pollute the whole area all the time and will destroy the serenity of our homes. That is the reason why cities have zoning laws, industries are zoned away from residential areas. Or in the event of highway noise, Cal Trans has 20 feet walls to protect the residents from the continuous traffic noise.
2 Well water - water from our wells have been drying up. With the new anticipated flushing from visitors in the new winery, the usage will be way above normal vineyard need. Our spring already disappeared. The massive earth moving to make the new caves and relocating the dirt will definitely change the natural water flow. The County should bear responsibility to protect the existing neighbors.
3 Car traffic and safety issues - on this windy road, it is dangerous for all residents and their children to have so much more car traffic. Many of us residents have already had a few near missed accidents from workers coming down the hill at end of the day driving at fast speed. This mountain curving road is not designed for so much traffic and for large tourist buses.
Napa will lose its charm and livability if the County continues approving of the construction of these large corporate event wineries. Thank you for your attention.
3460 Soda Canyon Rd
|Steve Chilton - Jul 20, 2016 1:06PM Share
[letter sent to Deputy Planning Director McDowell]
July 19, 2016
RE: OPPOSING MOUNTAIN PEAK WINERY-USE PERMIT #P13-00320-UP
Dear Deputy Planning Director McDowell,
My name is Steve Chilton and I reside on Soda Canyon Road, Napa, CA 94558. My wife and I constructed our home on a small acreage that has been in her family for nearly 100 years. While designing the house we worked around the 100+ year old oaks and Soda Creek. No oaks were removed for the house nor was the creek impacted. We practice positive environmental stewardship and expect the County and others on the Road to do the same. I strongly oppose the Mountain Peak project and request that you deny or significantly reduce this use permit for the following reasons.
• The size and scope of the project dictates that an Environmental Impact Report following the requirements of CEQA is mandatory. A negative declaration for a project this large and with its concurrent impacts upon water quality and quantity, wildlife, traffic, public safety, noise and vegetation cannot be supported by the facts. That the proponents have decided to proceed with this environmental disclosure document is an affront to county staff and the public.
• The permit request is for 100,000 gallons, which would require ~700 tons of grapes to satisfy. The project parcel has only 28 acres of planted vines, producing a maximum of ~80 tons of grapes per year (a mere 11% required to produce 100,000 gallons!). The staff report states that the additional tonnage will come from owned or under contract acreages nearby. Unfortunately "nearby" is not defined and could be on Silverado Trail. The County needs to identify where the grapes will come from in order to properly review a valid traffic report.
• As the County is aware of, Soda Canyon Road is narrow, steep in places, wet and foggy at times on the steepest section and used extensively by bicyclists. Deer and other wildlife frequently cross the road, especially at night. A hoard of tasters, leaving the event center at 10:00 PM after one last toast, must navigate this dark, unforgiving road without hitting a deer, a tree or a resident. It is only a matter of time.
• Fire danger is always discussed and seems to be dismissed by the County every time a project like this comes up. The risk of a man-caused fire on Soda Canyon Road is great now and with this project will become much worse. Cal Fire has sent extensive resources to the Canyon when there has been an incident and we applaud their efforts. As each fire season begins and continues through the summer and fall, other fires in the state drain our local resources. Cal Fires' ability to respond fully becomes more limited and the risk of a small car fire becoming an inescapable inferno becomes greater. Soda Canyon has a history of major fires. Because Soda Canyon Road is a dead-end road, there are significant public safety concerns with regard to fire, and all emergencies. There is essentially zero cell service on Soda Canyon Road, offering the potential of a small incident such as a vehicle accident, a tossed cigarette, or a jackknifed or otherwise stuck truck becoming a disaster that would impact the entire county.
• A routine tactic of developers and their consultants is to present a grossly over stated project and when confronted with opposition, to seemingly, reluctantly, reduce the project to 75 or even 50% of the initial proposal. I fully expect that to happen here, while keeping the visitor numbers high. Your planning department and planning director have seen this before and should not be fooled into believing this was not the proponents' intent all along. The project in its present form and when reduced will still qualify for the CEQA requirement of an EIR because there are unmitigatable, significant impacts to transportation, public safety and water quality and quantity.
For all of the reasons above, among many others, the County must deny this project and reduce the size to one that fits the rural environment and road conditions. Please protect our community's safety and preserve the quickly dwindling natural resources that Napa has left, particularly in the remote hillsides.
|Dan McFadden - Jul 20, 2016 1:03PM Share
Mountain Peak Winery, P13-00320-UP Letter from Resident Daniel McFadden
My name is Daniel McFadden. My wife Beverlee and I have lived at 2362 Soda Canyon Road since 1991, where we operate a small vineyard. I am a professor of health economics and policy at USC, and an emeritus professor of economics at UC Berkeley. I have served as President of the American Economics Association, and have testified before the Federal Trade Commission on the economics of direct wine sales. I am the recipient of a Nobel prize for my work in transportation economics.
The MPV proposal includes a visitation program for 18,486 visitors annually, adding more than 2000 nine-passenger tourist bus trips per year, or even more private vehicles, to the traffic on Soda Canyon Road. This 7.8 mile dead-end road is narrow, steep, and winding, without shoulders or guardrails, poorly paved, with crumbling margins and more than 500 filled potholes. Heavy truck and vineyard worker traffic is already degrading the pavement and creating traffic hazards. The additional wine tourist traffic on this road from the MPV proposal would create enormous risks for Soda Canyon residents and for the taxpayers of Napa County. When wine tourist buses accidents on this road inevitably happen, the County will be called to account for gross negligence if it permits this visitation program without requiring safe access. The only prudent way to accommodate the MPV tourist traffic on Soda Canyon road is to widen, regrade, and repave the road to the standards the county currently requires for industrial projects. One can show with a simple economic calculation that property and business taxes from the MPV operation will be insufficient to cover the cost of this road upgrade. MPV should either withdraw their proposed visitor request, or pay for the 7.5 mile road upgrade needed to make their visitor program safe. It is an unreasonable burden on the taxpayers of Napa County to ask them to subsidize MPV operations by paying for the road upgrade and liability for safe access to their plant.
MPV argues that their proposed visitor program is an important element in their business model. However, Peju-Provence Winery located on Highway 29 with easy access and extensive wine tourist facilities says direct wine sales are about 15 percent of total wine sales. The percentage for a remote plant like MPV would certainly be less. Calculation shows the income from direct sales originating in an on-site visitor program at MPV will be far below the cost of upgrading Soda Canyon Road to provide safe access. The MPV visitor proposal makes economic sense for them only if the taxpayers of Napa County subsidize them by assuming the enormous cost of upgrading the road, or assuming the liability for gross negligence if the MPV visitor program is approved without assuring safe access. Napa County government should not impose a massive, unfair burden on Napa County taxpayers to subsidize the business operations of a private industrial plant.
Daniel McFadden, July 20, 2016
|Bill Hocker - Jul 20, 2016 12:00AM Share
My name is Bill Hocker, 3460 Soda Canyon road. My wife and I are next door to the proposed project. We've been there for 22 years.
We have concerns about the impacts of a large event center in our backyard. Ours has been, until now, a remote residential, agricultural community.
We 're concerned about the 6-mile road that links us to the outside world. More traffic will only make an already degraded and dangerous road more so. Much is made of the 88 truck trips to be saved. Little is made of the tens of thousands of trips up and down the road each year to bring equipment and goods and employees and tourists to such a remote place.
As immediate neighbors, we're concerned about water. A second larger well is being added. A 100,000 g winery and a 100 people/day will consume water not consumed before. Efforts to recycle some of that water won't mean much when our well runs dry.
We're concerned about the amount of earth to be moved - enough to cover a football field 20 feet high. We're concerned about dust covering our properties and the grumbling and beeping of construction equipment for a couple of years. And we're concerned about the spillage and erosion of all that dirt into adjacent creeks on our property and theirs.
We're concerned about the waste water treatment plant proposed on our property line: 2-100,000 gal, 25 ft high storage tanks and a large treatment machine. We're concerned about the noise of the motors and pumps operating every day.
We're concerned about the noise of cave ventilation fans always humming, and the noise of vans and cars coming and going in the parking lot, and the noise of revelry and clinking tableware long into the night. In this remote place there is often absolute silence. Noises are very noticeable here.
We're concerned about the sweep of headlights from the parking lot, and of the outdoor lights needed for a factory and nighttime events, and of the glow from the large tasting room windows. You can still see the milky way and satellites passing overhead here. We're concerned about a light polluted future.
And we're concerned about the planet. Much is made of this LEED certified building. LEED, of course, doesn't measure the energy spent for a couple of years to build this massive project, or that needed for the tens of thousands of trips up and down the 6-mile road each year, or, that needed to build and demolish the relatively new mansion on the property, and probably not even much of the energy needed to keep all those pumps and motors and fans going all year long.
And we're concerned about the precedent this project sets: about other entrepreneurs building wineries here to make wine that is already being made elsewhere and to sell wine that is already being sold elsewhere whose real purpose is to add profit from the remoteness of our neighborhood as a tourism experience. It will not take many tourists before the remoteness and rural character are gone.
We, of course, have many more concerns - more than we have time for here.
Given all these concerns, we can't support this project. We respectfully ask that you refuse this application. Thank You
|Bill Hocker - May 15, 2015 9:48AM Share
Not having heard from the neighbors of the Mountain Peak project in the month since the project was resubmitted to the county and a notification of submission sent out, Sheveta Sharma, the planner shepherding the project, was kind enough to send me a note of concern. I did not receive the April 16th notice and will try to find out who did receive it.
In any case here it is: Apr 16th 2015 Mt. Peak resubmission notification
I have included the revised traffic report
in the documents listed at the top of the page. The conclusion, surprise, surprise: "The project will result in no significant off-site circulation system operational impacts to Silverado Trail or Soda Canyon Road or to the Silverado Trail/Soda Canyon Road intersection."
My email exchange with Ms. Sharma this morning is here:
On May 15, 2015 9:31:27 AM, Sheveta Sharma wrote:
At this time I can only guess as to when it might go before PC. The earliest possible date would be August in my best guess. Staff will have a better estimate once the environmental document is prepared. The only new document in the file is the revised traffic study which is attached. Though I should note that the applicant has also modified the project and is no longer seeking any variances.
As for the notice, it should have been sent to a 1000 foot radius. I checked with our admin staff and it seems the issue was that the notice should have gone out through the Planning staff directly and the notice was not properly mailed. At this time I know that the neighbors are maintain a website regarding the project, so that may be the quickest way to notify all the interested parties.
On May 15, 2015 9:17 AM, Bill Hocker wrote:
Many thanks for the followup. I did not receive your April 16th notification about Mountain Peak. Although my inbox is full of notifications from the county as well as forwarded alerts about projects from other people around the county, this one, as you might imagine, would have stood out. Anyone within our residential community or the activist community that has formed around the county in the last year would have circulated the notice had they received it. Might I ask who else the notice was sent to?
Is it possible at this point to guess how long your review will last and when the project might come up before the planning commission?
Are electronic copies of the submitted documents available, and if not, a guess as to when they might be available.
On May 15, 2015, at 8:21 AM, Sharma, Shaveta wrote:
Good morning Bill,
I was writing to ask whether you had received the notice that was sent in April regarding Mountain Peak Winery's resubmittal. I wanted to follow up because I was surprised I hadn't heard from any of the neighbors.
It is attached for your reference, let me know if you have any questions.
|Bill Hocker - Dec 1, 2014 11:31PM Share
I received this anonymous email today. It is an unusual email and it seemed important to share it.
"Hi, being born and raised in Napa, 1958. My mother went to Mt. Veeder School, and I graduated from Vintage in 1977. We lived at 1076 Soda Cny. Rd. from 1966- 1969. Even then the road was hazardous. I remember riding my pony with my friends, there were four of us who had ponies, and sometimes we would ride over to each others house. We were all seven or eight yrs. old. You could do that then and we were very careful. One day,I think it was 1968, I rode down to the store, where my best friend and another friend were selling vegetables out front. There were gas pumps on the left side of the bldg. they had set up their table in the front of the store. I had left early, but when my parents and I returned, we drove by the store. There we saw a car that had gone thru the bldg. and partway inside the store, taking my best friend with it and my other friend who was thrown towards the gas pumps. The driver was drunk and came flying off Silverado Trl. at 60 m.p.h. He was going to buy gas. My best friend lived for a week, never regaining consciousness, my other friend broke her arm. We were all going to be in the third grade, she was eight yrs. old. I still think of her and what she would be doing if she were alive.
I do hope you win this battle for the sake of all who live; work and play on that dangerous narrow road. Most of my memories were good while I lived there. May all your memories be good too."
|Bill Hocker - Oct 18, 2014 12:17PM Share
Neighbors and Friends
Glenn Schreuder has spoken with Ms. Sheveta Sharma, the planner reviewing Mountain Peak Vineyards
project, and she has indicated that the MPV submission is not yet complete and that it may be next March before the planning commission gets it.
Things have slowed down considerably in the planning department since we were first alerted last March about the possibility of a large tourist event center being located on our road. Our own efforts to change the entry configuration on the project meant a resubmission on their part by which time community activism all over the valley had alerted the county, and its new planning director, that the cumulative impact of this type of development needed more thorough public scrutiny. There are currently over 25 of these projects awaiting review. The director has proposed a public forum to discuss the Winery Definition Ordinance that governs the creation of these projects, perhaps in November (now probably January), with a proposal for changes, in the spring, to be made by the wine industry "stakeholders", the 4 organizations that have worked out the previous 2 versions of the WDO. Their proposal will no doubt be influenced by tourism interests and we hope a resident "citizen stakeholder" group as well.
The planning department is also short staffed which has slowed things down and, of course, there is the aftermath of the earthquake to deal with. But things are returning to normal.
On Oct 14th one of our 2 new tourist-venues on the road, Relic Winery
, applied for minor changes to its use permit and Diane Shepp, Dan McFadden, Draselle Muscatine, Cindy Grupp and I where there to show our concerns. The modification was approved. And the generator-powered "Caves" winery
continues to be an annoyance to its neighbors.
Our community board
continues to meet. We have engaged a lawyer, a traffic consultant, a hydrologist and a geotechnical engineer to review the project on our behalf and present findings to the commission when the time comes. Cindy, Dan, Draselle and I met with the traffic consultant after the Relic hearing for his first look at the conditions of the road.
This tuesday, Oct 21st, (see our calendar here
) the appeal of the use permit granted to the Woolls Ranch tourism-winery on Mt. Veeder Rd will be heard by the Board of Supervisors. Woolls Ranch is more-or-less a sister project to MPV, a tourism venue proposed up a rural canyon road on the western watershed presenting the same traffic impacts but even more dire aquifer impacts on the Mt. Veeder community. Several of our members, the Halletts, the McFaddens, Anne Palotas and I have submitted letters when the first appeal of the project was heard in May. We encourage you to do so now as well and to show up at the hearing. The many projects that may be proposed on Soda Canyon Road in the future can only be stopped by countywide action to diminish the development trend.
Two groups, both potential allies in our campaign, have been created to oppose the massive vineyard conversion project on the south slope of Atlas Peak, Walt Ranch Vineyard Conversion
. The Defenders of the East Napa Watersheds (DENW) has been formed by the Circle Oaks community that will be surrounded by the project, and various affected neighbors on Atlas Peak and Montecello Roads have formed the Watersheds Alliance for Atlas Peak (WAAP). Dan Mufson has been our principal contact. The groups, with several articulate spokespeople, show up at each PC and BOS meeting to voice their concerns during the open comments period.
There are many happenings going on around the valley in which community groups and individuals are beginning to push back against the onslaught of tourism development that will transform the rural character of the county. I have begun to link to them on SodaCanyonRoad.org
knowing that the protection of the rural serenity we enjoy here will not just depend on our efforts - it is a commitment that the entire county must make together. To view the many member-only comments posted to the site, and to post comments yourself, you will have to log in (first creating a password if you don't have one already).
|Bill Hocker - Aug 6, 2014 5:08PM Share
We attended a meeting of the planning commission today in which the planning director laid out his timetable for addressing the metrics asked for by the commissioners regarding the cumulative impacts of all the projects they have been approving and the ones that are in the pipeline. There are currently 26 major projects being reviewed by 3 or 4 planners and the planning commission agreed that the reviews are going to have to slow down while they do their cumulative impact analysis. Mountain Peak is one of the 26. Shaveta Sharma, the planner on our project, is handling 12 of the 26 so we may be into October.
|Bill Hocker - Aug 4, 2014 12:35PM Share
This email was just received from Sheveta Sharma:
At this time the project is still incomplete and the environmental documents have not been prepared. A Notice and the CEQA documents will go out to neighbors well in advance of any hearing date. No hearing date is scheduled at this time.
|Bill Hocker - Jul 23, 2014 9:31AM Share
A draft of the Phase 2 analysis has been submitted to staff and we are currently reviewing the work. The analysis will be made available when the CEQA document is released to the public.
|Bill Hocker - Jul 7, 2014 3:04PM Share
While at the county building for the Yountville Hill hearing
on July 2nd (a farce of a tragedy) I talked to Sheveta Sharma at the planning department and she felt that the project would not go to the planning commission until September but would not speculate on first or third wednesday.
|Bill Hocker - Jun 24, 2014 10:07AM Share
[Response from Sheveta Sharma to my email below]
Good afternoon Bill,
The narrative does discuss a small increase in the caves. I do not have an electronic copy, but can provide one at the County building. The hydrology report would become available the same time as the prepared CEQA document and would be available 20 days prior to the scheduled PC hearing. No date has been determined, nor will be, until the CEQA document is complete.
Planning, Building, & Environmental Services
Re: Mountain Peak Vineyards submission
1. One of our members had most if not all of the documents from the MPV May 14th submission copied, and I have put them up on our website at http://sodacanyonroad.org/forum.php?t=1 .
One of the drawings not there was the revision of the caves plan
. Did we just miss it? If so, do you happen to have an electronic copy of it that you could send? I stopped by last friday to get it but the person at the desk couldn't find the project binder.
2. Mr. Morrison mentioned that a phase 2 water analysis was being done on the project. Is that the same as the hydrology report mentioned in your letter to Mr. Appalas? When might we be able to obtain a copy of that report?
Will there be other additional documents submitted before your review is final? One of our members asked about a geotechnical report. Will that also be a part of the final submission? You mentioned an environmental document in your letter. Is that the report you create just before sending your recommendation to the commission? Or is that document available prior to that time?
Did MPV re-submit a project statement with the revisions to their use permit submission?
3. Do you have any current expectation yet on when your review of the project might be finished and headed to the planning commission?
|Bill Hocker - Jun 10, 2014 3:49PM Share
[Letter sent to Napa County Planner Shaveta Sharma in response to the re-submission letter by Donna Oldford with copies sent to the PBES Director Morrison and Deputy Planning Director McDowell]
Ms. Shaveta Sharma
Dept of Planning Building & Environmental Services
1195 Third St, Suite 210
Napa CA, 94559
I have received a copy of a letter dated May 27th 2014 addressed to you by Ms. Donna Oldford relating to their resubmission of documents for the Mount Peak Vineyards Project. I have taken the liberty of uploading it here: http://sodacanyonroad.org/docs/oldford5-27-14.pdf
. It gave a summary description of the project and included a timeline of meetings held between myself and the Argers and various representatives of the applicant and the county and a list of mitigations proposed by the developer.
While I will be raising questions concerning the specifics of the project proposal once the final submission has passed to public review, I would like to comment on the issues mentioned in the letter here.
Regarding the reduction in grape truck transport
The letter mentions that 88 grape truck trips are saved per year up Soda Canyon Road. Rather than looking at that number in a vacuum, I would ask that you compare it with the numbers for materials, supplies and case goods that must be transported to and from the remote site. If I interpret the county's trip generation formulas properly, they would amount to 500 trips per year. More importantly, you might compare the number to the 46700 trips made up and down the road by the visitors, employees and part-time employees each year. All of these trips would be unnecessary if the winery were located in a more accessible place. While 88 trips may be saved in grape transport, they are dwarfed by other deliveries necessitated, and they are statistically miniscule compared to the trips necessitated by locating a tourism facility in such a remote location.
Regarding LEED Certification
LEED certification is a score of potential building energy conservation that will no doubt emphasize the reduced refrigeration and air conditioning costs in this project created by the caves [although it seems that mechanical refrigeration of the caves will be necessary as well]. But many energy expenditures are not reflected in the LEED score. Not considered are the fuel energy costs of mining the caves and relocating the spoils. Not considered also is the cost in fuel energy and road maintenance necessary to accommodate years of construction equipment and contractors making the trip up and down the road. Nor does it consider the fuel for 47000 trips/year made by visitors and employees to such a remote location. Nor is the wasted energy involved in new construction to replace a perfectly good structure factored into the score. (It is worth noting here that the former owner of this property, Jan Krupp, plans to reuse the house on his new winery property on the Silverado Trail as his tasting room). And most important what is not considered is that the grapes currently on the site and on the owners other property are already being processed by another winery, and that the huge amount of energy consumed for the project's construction, maintenance and access is completely unnecessary in the first place. In fact, 4-5 acres of existing grapes are being removed to make way for the project resulting in less Napa wine being produced as a result of the massive amounts of energy being expended.
Finally, LEED is at best an unreliable metric of energy conservation. You might take a look at this article
. (Sorry for the advert) As with J.D. Powers ratings, a company or developer pays money to a rating company to give a favorable review based mostly on nonessential minutia. The rating can, of course, translate into tax breaks, a marketing or public opinion advantage, or a planning commission approval that justifies the high price paid for the rating. The actual benefit in energy conservation based on LEED criteria is often arguable or non-existent.
Regarding the LYVE wastewater treatment system.
It is commendable that a system is being put in place to reduce water consumption on the site. But the employment of such an initially expensive and energy consumptive system is in fact recognition that there may not be enough water on the site to maintain the groundwater necessary to supply the needs of a winery-tourism project. I would again ask the county if permitting a project that actually reduces the acreage of Napa grapes in the county, while potentially exacerbating water availability in a time of global warming, is a wise decision. It is an argument that I will return to at the appropriate time.
Regarding minimal visual impact
I would ask that the county weigh the minimal visual impact of the buried winery to other aspects of the project that are not so minimal. There is nothing minimal about the outdoor 15000 sf. crush pad where the actual noise and light and unsightly visual impacts of a winery are generated. There is nothing minimal about the 1,200,000 cf. being extracted to make way for the largest wine caves ever proposed in the county. (At 65,000 sf. this is also probably the largest 100,000 gal/year winery in the county.) There is nothing minimal in moving 2,000,000 cf. of dirt around the site, or of the backup beeps and grumbling of heavy machines during years of construction and re-grading. There is nothing minimal about the 2-100000 gal tanks (each 35' dia. x 25' high) on my property line or the container cargo sized wastewater treatment plant next to them with its 2 -10000 gal tanks and pumps and motors always churning. There is nothing minimal about the 4' platform of spoils adjacent to my property or of the 10' of spoils adjacent to the blue line creek that crosses their property. There is nothing minimal about the 20' high berm next to my property line for the crush pad entry road. There is nothing minimal about the lights and noises of the cars in the parking lots accommodating 25000 visitors and employees per year or of the 10000 sf. of lighted glass pavilions and their terraces filled with happy and noisy wine consumers until 10:00pm. Minimal is not a word easily applied to this project.
Regarding the marketing plan of similarly sized facilities in the area
There are no marketing plans in the area to compare to. The only winery on the watershed, Antica Napa Valley, has no marketing plan. They are permitted 100 tasting/tours per week that they seldom use. They seem to have survived quite well (and have been a good neighbor) without the necessity of a marketing plan. I would suggest that their formula be applied to this project as well.
The nearest similar winery is the newly permitted and not yet built Corona winery 6 miles down that winding road on the Silverado Trail. The capacity is the same. The marketing plan IS comparable. Corona, of course, creates none of the impacts of trying to accommodate its hundreds of deliveries and thousands of visitors each year up a 6 mile winding road.
But while making the comparison, you should also note that the Corona winery is only about 2/5ths the size of this project in enclosed area. In fact, looking at the 4 – 100,000 gal/year wineries that have come before the planning commission in the last 2 years, the range of enclosed space is from 13000 to 49000 sf., nowhere near the nearly 80,000 sf. proposed for this project. The enclosed space of the Antica winery is 47000 sf. and it is permitted 450,000 gals/yr. This raises the question of why this proposal is so large in area (and hence in potential capacity). It is a question I will return to at a later time.
Regarding our meetings with the developer
All of the meetings, save the first and the last, were undertaken to discuss the proposed project entry access point to be used by 18500 tourists/year off of a one-lane gravel road that currently serves perhaps 30 residences and all of the daily operations of over 1000 acres of vineyards. A variance would be necessary to avoid cutting down trees that line the road. Considering the County's normal fastidiousness about the traffic impacts and mitigations relating to new projects, it was a little discouraging that such a proposal had survived so long. The county should have nixed it long before and it should not have been an issue for neighbors and the developer to spend time and money on.
Regarding my own conversations with the developer, at my first meeting with Mr. Rea I asked if he would be willing to omit the tourism component of his project. That mitigation was not acceptable. At our last meeting I asked the same question. The answer was still no. As I mentioned, the one winery on the Rector watershed, Antica Napa Valley, has managed to be a profitable business, and a good neighbor, since 1987 with no marketing plan and only a few infrequently used tasting/tour slots. Antica shows that a marketing plan on this remote watershed is unnecessary to justify profitably (often cited as a reason for its inclusion). Absent the willingness to eliminate or very drastically reduce the tourism component, which represents by far the most egregious of the impacts presented by this project to the Soda Canyon Road community, I have seen no purpose yet in discussing more specific issues or mitigations.
Regarding the mitigations proposed
-The 100000 water tank at the entry was to my understanding already proposed to be underground to the benefit of the appearance of the approach to the project and was not discussed in any of the meetings.
-The temporary tunnel speeds up the project completion to the benefit of the developer as well as residents. This was also not talked about in meetings.
-Dust mitigation in the form of shade cloth on the fence, while an appreciated suggestion, is unlikely to be effective. Given the amount of earth being moved around it is unlikely that even watering will have much effect.
-The proposed mitigation on visitations is a pretty convoluted calculation, but I assume that the 320 per week limit would still be allowed, and that any appointments reduced on an event day could just be added to a non-event day resulting in the same 18500 number at the end of the year.
-The removal of the tractor barn was, I believe, related to the acquisition of greater additional acreage some distance from the project site, and the barn's more logical location there. Frankly I would much prefer to have the barn remain and the LYVE system and its gargantuan tanks removed.
-The landscaped berm is the only real mitigation proposed. When we get to the point of discussing specific mitigations on our property it is one that I would also welcome between my property and the crush pad, wastewater treatment plant, worker parking lot, and Stagecoach Vineyards picnic area.
In Conclusion (and probably outside the realm of your review)
As Ms. Oldford highlights, this process represents the investment of a significant amount of money, as does the project as a whole. But the amount of money invested should not be the basis for the County's decisions. I feel, quite frankly, that given the inappropriateness of tourism in this remote location, given the unnecessary size of the facility and given the lack of any functional necessity for a winery to be located here, that the project mostly represents the vanity of an owner interested in investing in an ostentatious display of wealth in a county so conducive to such preening. The impacts of that vanity will change the lives of all the residents of Soda Canyon Road. The project will create a precedent for future tourism developments on the road that will continue to debase the remoteness and privacy that are the reasons we, grape growers and mere residents alike, have chosen to live here. I am dismayed (and as you can tell from the tone of this letter, a little angry) that the county seems to consider the imposition of this individual extravagance to be more worthy of governmental support and protection than the maintenance of a rural community of hundreds of people that have called this road their home, some like me for only 20 years, many for most of their lives and some for generations.
|Yeoryios Apallas - Jun 10, 2014 2:02PM Share
[Email reply from County Planner Sheveta Sharma to my letter below]
In your email you correctly note that the well log information for the proposed well is not available because the well has not been drilled. And for the existing well the well log is not available to the public, thought the well permit application is. At the Use Permit stage, which is an entitlement, all that is necessary is an approximate location and number of any proposed new wells. The information you are requesting is not available because staff does not have that information, and while we have requested it from the applicant the applicant is not at the point of submitting for a well permit nor does staff require that information for the project's review and analysis of required information. When the information regarding the new well is required is by Environmental Health prior to the issuance of building permit and again that information would be submitted as a well log and not available to the neighbors, while the well permit itself would be available for inspection.
What the Planning Division looks at in our review is the current and proposed water use levels and in this instance has requested a Hydrology report to further evaluate the ability of the project site to accommodate the proposal. While the Hydrology report itself is proprietary information, portions of that report will be made available due to its incorporation into the environmental document which will pre prepared for the project and made available to the public a minimum of 20 days prior to any public hearing.
I understand the neighbor's concerns and why they are requesting information which the feel is important. And while the size of the well could impact how much groundwater is pumped at one time, the overall groundwater that can be pumped remains the same and is based on the total project site multiplies by the factor of 0.5 AF/YR as noted in the Water Availability Analysis, in this instance that total amount is 20.88 AF/YR. In addition, there are standard conditions of approval placed on the project with respect to wells specifically.
12. ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH-SPECIFIC CONDITIONS
Please contact (707) 253-4471 with any questions regarding the following.
The permittee may be required (at the permittee's expense) to provide well monitoring data if the Director of Planning, Building and Environmental Services determines that water usage at the winery is affecting, or would potentially affect, groundwater supplies or nearby wells. Data requested could include, but would not necessarily be limited to, water extraction volumes and static well levels. If the applicant is unable to secure monitoring access to neighboring wells, onsite monitoring wells may need to be established to gauge potential impacts on the groundwater resource utilized for the project proposed. Water usage shall be minimized by use of best available control technology and best water management conservation practices.
In the event that changed circumstances or significant new information provide substantial evidence that the groundwater system referenced in the use permit would significantly affect the groundwater basin, the Director of Planning, Building and Environmental Services shall be authorized to recommend additional reasonable conditions on the permittee, or revocation of this permit, as necessary to meet the requirements of the Napa County Groundwater Ordinance and protect public health, safety, and welfare. That recommendation shall not become final unless and until the Director has provided notice and the opportunity for hearing in compliance with the Napa County Code §13.15.070 (G-K).
This condition provides staff with discretion to take measures to alleviate any issues that may arise in the future. At this time since the Hydrology report has not been submitted for staff's review nor has any environmental document been prepared I cannot speculate on what the impacts to groundwater will be. Some additional background information for the neighbors on groundwater reports and date can be accessed at the link below:
My apologies that the County's protocols are not satisfactory to the neighbors, however they are the standards approved by the Board of Supervisors and by which all projects are analyzed. Perhaps the neighbors will be happy to know that the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission have started a discussion of adding to or revising current standards and if any of them change in the near future perhaps Mountain Peak may be affected by those changes. At this time staff does not have the ability to alter the process of how projects are analyzed and the information that has been provided to the neighbors is all the information staff has available and has the authority to provide to the public.
Planning, Building, & Environmental Services
|Yeoryios Apallas - Jun 7, 2014 11:55AM Share
[letter sent to Sweveta Sharma regarding proposed new well]
Dear Ms. Sharma:
In regard to my request for information pertaining to the Mountain PeakVineyard/Winery (Project Address 3265 Soda Canyon Road, Napa, CA 94558; APN032-500-0330), I specifically asked for the applicant's plans regarding afuture well to be dug on the above referenced parcel. The proposed well isshown on the Overall Site Plan submitted by the applicant, a Mr. Hua Yuan,and his engineer Bartelt, etc. The well is depicted in schematic UP1 whichis a public document and part of the Use Permit Application which wassubmitted about two weeks ago or so.
When I inquired about the size of the well that will be dug at the site youadvised me that the information is not available to the general public. You, of course, are mistaken. What is not available to the public is thereport prepared, pursuant to Section 13751 of the California Water Code, bythe well driller. I cite to your attention the California Water CodeSections 13751 and 13752 that address this point.
13751. (a) Every person who digs, bores, or drills a water well,cathodic protection well, groundwater monitoring well, or geothermalheat exchange well, abandons or destroys such a well, or deepens orreperforates such a well, shall file with the department a report ofcompletion of that well within 60 days from the date itsconstruction, alteration, abandonment, or destruction is completed. (b) The report shall be made on forms furnished by the departmentand shall contain information as follows: (1) In the case of a water well, cathodic protection well, orgroundwater monitoring well, the report shall contain information asrequired by the department, including, but not limited to all of thefollowing information: (A) A description of the well site sufficiently exact to permitlocation and identification of the well. (B) A detailed log of the well. (C) A description of type of construction. (D) The details of perforation. (E) The methods used for sealing off surface or contaminatedwaters. (F) The methods used for preventing contaminated waters of oneaquifer from mixing with the waters of another aquifer. (G) The signature of the well driller. (2) In the case of a geothermal heat exchange well, the reportshall contain all of the following information: (A) A description of the site that is sufficiently exact to permitthe location and identification of the site and the number ofgeothermal heat exchange wells drilled on the same lot. (B) A description of borehole diameter and depth and the type ofgeothermal heat exchange system installed. (C) The methods and materials used to seal off surface orcontaminated waters. (D) The methods used for preventing contaminated water in oneaquifer from mixing with the water in another aquifer. (E) The signature of the well driller.
13752. Reports made in accordance with paragraph (1) of subdivision(b) of Section 13751 shall not be made available for inspection bythe public, but shall be made available to governmental agencies foruse in making studies, or to any person who obtains a writtenauthorization from the owner of the well. However, a reportassociated with a well located within two miles of an area affectedor potentially affected by a known unauthorized release of acontaminant shall be made available to any person performing anenvironmental cleanup study associated with the unauthorized release,if the study is conducted under the order of a regulatory agency. Areport released to a person conducting an environmental cleanup studyshall not be used for any purpose other than for the purpose ofconducting the study.
The information I seek is not part of a report prepared under Section13751(b)(1). No such report has been prepared because the well has not yetbeen dug. Moreover, to the extent that applicant does have even a colorableclaim to the protection of Section 13752, quoted above, he has waived suchsince he, through his engineers, has voluntarily disclosed portions of hisintent to drill a new well and has identified with some precision, thelocation of said proposed well. See, UP1.
I am seeking this information for the simple purpose of determining theimpact of this well on the surrounding properties and the continuedviability of their wells which for many provide their drinking water.Clearly, the impact of a 4" bore is far less than the impact of a 16" wellwhich we understand is what Mr. Hua Yuan has in mind. If the size of thebore is 16" you can imagine the amount of acre feet per year that such awell will draw. And since the County has no more idea than a goose aboutthe amount of groundwater that exists in the eastern hills--(there exist nocredible reports, indeed the undersigned is aware of none, that have studiedin a scientific and systematic manner through monitoring wells)--where thisproject will be located, the neighbors are very anxious about the impactthat such a well will have on the availability of their water. Finally,from a public policy perspective, if the County continues to cling to itslegally unsupportable position that such information is shielded bySection13751, it can with such artifice, stifle meaningful environmentalanalysis by the impacted neighbors by straight arming their legitimaterequest for information that has, at the very least, been voluntarydisclosed by the applicant in his use permit. I urge you to reconsider yourembargo to my very simple information request.
As you begin your career in the Napa County Planning Department (Iunderstand that you have just come on board in the last several months) Iurge you to read the County's 2008 General Plan and specifically itsConservation Element. Of interest in this matter is Conservation PolicyNos. 52 and 53 which in relevant part state:
"Con-52 'The County encourages responsible use and conservation ofgroundwater resources by way of its groundwater ordinances."
"Con-53 'The County shall ensure that the intensity and timing of newdevelopment are consistent with the capacity of water supplies and protectgroundwater and other water supplies by requiring all applicants fordiscretionary projects to demonstrate the availability of an adequate watersupply prior to approval. ..May include evidence or calculation ofgroundwater availability..." Since the County has never undertaken a studyof groundwater availability in at least atop the Soda Canyon area, how canthe county possibly meet the policy in Conv-53? The hypothetical assumptionthat there is 1/2 acre foot of water for each acre of land, as articulatedin the 2007 Water Availability Analysis (2007 WAA--an update to the 1991WAA) prepared by Napa County's Public Works Department unabashedly admitsthat "...there is limited information available on Napa County groundwaterbasins, in general (with the exception of the MST basin)" and thus forconvenient analysis resorts to the fiction that there exists 1/2 acre footper acre of land in the hills such as Soda Canyon and Atlas Peak. What theneighbors of this project are trying to do through this request andconsequent analysis is bring light where only medieval darkness now exists.
I am renewing my request for a very simple piece of information--thediameter of the new well. I am not asking any information from any reportthat may have been prepared under Section 13751 of the Water Code, forindeed no such report can now possibly exist since the well has not beendug. Consequently the benefit of that information cannot possibly fallwithin the sphere of protection under Section 13752. Your position in thisregard is untenable, without merit, and arbitrary.
I strongly urge you to talk to your principal planner on this project andthe planning director regarding this matter. If the county continues tohold this position, I will seek appropriate relief in a proper venue.
Thank you for your continued consideration of my request. As time is of theessence, I kindly request that you respond to this email by close ofbusiness, Monday, June 9, 2014.
Yeoryios C. Apallas
|Diane Shepp - May 29, 2014 2:27PM Share
[This letter to the editor was sent in response the Peter Jensen's May 21th, 2014 article "Soda Canyon winery project draws neighbors' ire"]
Does a Costco size Tourist Winery Belong atop Soda Canyon Road?
Donna Oldford, a local winery consultant, commented recently in an article for the NV Register (5.25.2014) on Mountain Peak Vineyards (MPV), proposed 100,000 gallon winery, 7 miles up the mountain – of Soda Canyon Road. In the article, she states "[the developer's] entire winery is in a cave. If we can't approve this winery, I don't know the kind of winery we can approve."
The obvious answer to this intended rhetorical question, from the perspective of a neighbor and citizen friendly to the preservation of Napa Valley, is a winery that is commensurate with its rural and remote location and drastically smaller than the version currently proposed. It would be a winery that meets the intention of the 1968 Agricultural Preserve, and focuses more on the preservation of vineyards and NOT on marketing and tourism.
As has been made abundantly clear in meetings between the developer and concerned neighbors, the sole focus of the MPV winery will be to maximize direct sales of its wines by attracting as many tourists as possible to the secluded facility. In fact, MPV has recently INCREASED the number of visitors to the winery on an annual basis to 18,858. The original number of 18,496 was already preposterous given the remote location and inevitable challenges that will be faced with the deteriorated condition of Soda Canyon Road. This is particularly alarming to MPV neighbors, who, over the past 8 weeks have met with the developer, Steven Rea, 3 times and specifically requested a significant REDUCTION in the number of visitors to the winery.
Mr. Rea and his consultants deflected questions regarding the size of both the winery and its marketing plan by claiming that the majority of its production facility would be constructed underground in 65,000 square feet of caves (an underground facility that is slightly smaller than a Costco Wholesale store). The developer claimed that building expansive production facilities underground would reduce noise and lower its "footprint" and that the tourism component was absolutely essential to MPV's business plan. After some reflection, it seems that the real reason MPV is building monstrous caves is so they can skate through the approval process at the county level and capitalize on grandiose plans for tourism and marketing.
Napa County regulations require that a winery cannot be larger than 25% of the parcel size on which it is built. By definition, MPV's overall winery square footage meets the requirements of this regulation. However, the manner in which MPV is meeting the requirement – by hiding the 65,000 square foot "elephant" underground, – may be nothing more than a crafty maneuver to create the façade that MPV will be a "low impact" winery. While this may seem reasonable to developers, this amounts to nothing more than subterfuge of, and an end-run around, the decades-old intent of the 1968 Agricultural Preserve, which is to preserve the incredible agriculture component that has made Napa Valley one of the finest wine regions in the world.
In a 2008 article written by Paul Franson, BEFORE the 2010 amendment to the WDO and resulting onslaught of winery permit approvals, he states "2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the act that protected much of Napa Valley for agriculture. You need only look around the valley to recognize its success: the valley is lush with grapevines, not tract housing and shopping malls. It has maintained a rural character long lost by adjoining counties around San Francisco Bay."
If approved, MPV will set a precedent that could lead to a trend where developers propose massive wineries underground, leaving only tourism and marketing facilities above ground. With grand-scale tourism and marketing, particularly in remote locations like Atlas Peak, the beloved rural character of Napa will be "long lost," as wineries place what are the equivalent of shopping mall sized winery production facilities underground in order to encourage shopping mall sized crowds in the tourism and marketing facilities aboveground.
Is that really the "kind of winery," to use Ms. Oldford's words, the county and the citizens of Napa County want? Wineries that bend the local regulations by going underground, building Costco-sized winery facilities below the surface so that they can increase their overall tourism and marketing plans aboveground? The cumulative impacts of increased traffic, tourism, groundwater depletion and other environmental issues, will prove to be disastrous to all the citizens AND existing wineries in Napa County.
What will developers come up with next? Winery skyscrapers that house both production and tourism functions whose building footprint meets the county requirements, but whose actual size impact is ten times the size of its parcel and towers 50 stories above the Napa landscape? Oh wait, that's the Yountville Hill winery which is pending approval…
When and where will the county draw the line?
|Bill Hocker - May 27, 2014 6:13PM Share
[My next letter to the editor has also been published in the register:]
This letter is in response to Peter Jensen's May 22 article "St. Helena winery approved despite objections from neighbors.
The Joint BOS/Planning Commission meeting on May 20 was potentially a milestone in the latest in a long series of battles between the profiteers and purists for the soul of Napa County. The supervisors charged the planning department with analyzing the cumulative impacts that the last couple of years of winery approvals will have on the future of the county so that commissioners would no longer be "flying blind" while trying to make decisions on new proposals.
To those of us NIMBY's who have a winery project proposed in our backyards, or who might shortly if current trends hold, it has offered hope that our voices can be now heard. Collectively we know, because we've been forced to think about it, that our backyards are the future of Napa County, and that future, we think, will be crowded. Used to being dismissed, we find that being mentioned in the same breath with "stakeholders" by the commissioners and the supervisors is, in fact, a breath of fresh air.
Yet, one day later, we return to business-as-usual with the unanimous approval of the 11th new winery by the Planning Commission in the last year. A symbolic "nay" by one of the commissioners, agreed to openly by everyone in advance, would have been a welcome sign that community concerns would be weighed during the five months or so the county has given itself to review the impacts of approved projects. The 4-to-1 approval would still have advanced the project along to its appeal with the Board of Supervisors.
Five months, however, is too long for me. Our project will probably be coming up in the next month. As will two or three new wineries or winery expansions each month for the next five months, a total of perhaps 130,000 new tourism visitation slots (and perhaps four new communities of irate NIMBY's) if the rate remains as it has.
But the rate may not remain the same. The BOS meeting has put developers on alert that things may be different by the end of the year and they'd better get their projects in right now. The planning department may have some technique to prevent spikes -- I don't know. But there is a possibility that the planning staff is going to be burdened with more work than ever just at the moment they (have) been requested to spend time analyzing the impacts of their past work.
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I think that the county planners are very dedicated and hardworking. They have done their best over the last couple of years to process the projects that the planning commission was anxious to approve. Yet as was noted at the joint meeting, things have changed a lot in two years. The economy is up -- and with it the sale of high-end wines. Advertising to attract tourists has been successful. The incentive to build ever more tourist attractions as a strategy to increase sales is less pressing.
So I would re-propose a solution that was rejected at the joint meeting -- one that works to my ends, one that relieves the burden on staff so that they can have the time to really find out what these last two years of approvals mean, one that relieves commissioners from making decisions in a vacuum, and one that, IMHO, gives the county time to reconnect with the preservation of its soul. We need not use the "m" word. Let's just call it a breather.
NVR LTE version 5/26/14:Let's take breather on winery proposals
|Bill Hocker - May 27, 2014 10:16AM Share
Peter Jensen has just published an article in the Napa Valley Register,
Soda Canyon project draws neighbors' ire
, relating to the Mountain Peak project and our efforts to curtail it. Please take a look and add your comments at the bottom of the article.
|Cindy Grupp - May 19, 2014 5:59PM Share
[Letter to Supervisor Bill Dodd]
I wanted to follow-up on my earlier voice mail regarding the Mountain Peak Winery. As I said, I am contacting you on behalf of a coalition of residents of Soda Canyon, Foss Valley and Loma Vista Rd.
The MPW project, which is currently in the permitting process, could well be the poster child for what's gone wrong with the WDO given the sheer magnitude of the project and in particular given its rural location approximately 6 miles up Soda Canyon Rd.
The scope of the project includes:
Winery production of 100,000 gals of 44,000 cases per year.
Approximately 80,000 square feet of enclosed space, 65,000 square feet of which will be caves.
19 full-time employees, 4 part-time employees year round, 4 seasonal employees during harvest/crush, additional vineyard workers, delivery trucks, etc.
Hours of operation - 6am - 6pm.
Tasting, tours and events which will include a full service Tasting Room open 7 days/week, 10am-6pm. Outdoor Picnic Areas open 7 days/week, 10am-6pm. Marketing Events from 10am-10pm. All to accommodate up to 17,300 visitors/tourists per year.
Specific concerns of the residents include traffic and road safety, fire safety and water impact.
A Winery/Tourist Facility of this size and scope belongs on the Silverado Trail, NOT at the end of a 6 mile, 2 lane, steep , dangerous, dead-end country road. The Board of Supervisors established a precedent by allowing only extremely limited tasting access to Atlas Peak Winery (now Antica Napa Valley) at the end of Soda Canyon Rd. If this project is built it will set a new precedent for future developments of similar size and scale on the Rector Canyon watershed. The long-term consequences of approval are many, with no reasonably positive outcome for the residents of Soda Canyon Rd.
Again, I would like to invite you to meet with members of the Soda Canyon community at a BBQ to be held on Saturday, May 31 at 2:30 pm at 3460 Soda Canyon Rd., the home of Bill Hocker and Mui Ho.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
|Anthony Arger - May 19, 2014 4:10PM Share
[Letter to Developer Steve Rea and Planning Consultant Donna Oldford in response to their mitigation offers]
Dear Steve & Donna,
We have heard back from all of the neighbors who attended the meeting and everybody has decided they must respectfully decline to sign to proposed agreement, as it simply does not adequately address our major concerns.
As stated at the very top of our list of concerns to MPV, the general concern is that the sheer magnitude of the project is much too large for the rural location approximately 7 miles up Soda Canyon Road. While we appreciate your attempts to meet with representatives of the neighborhood and propose some very modest compromises, only one of which has any true substance, there has been no effort by MPV to reconsider the overall size and scope of the project, meaning that all of the neighborhood's concerns with regards to traffic, water, fire safety, and environmental impact have NOT and will NOT be addressed. Accordingly, we cannot sign this particular compromise.
If MPV would like to seriously reconsider the overall size and scope of the project that would have the effect of significantly reducing the negative impacts the project will have on traffic, water, fire safety, and the environment, we would be more than happy to consider such a revised compromise.
If MPV chooses NOT to reconsider the overall size and scope of the project, we sincerely hope that MPV elects to submit final plans to the county which places the main winery entrance on the existing paved portion of Soda Canyon Road near the existing entrance, and NOT on the gravel road. As mentioned several times now, placement of the entrance on Soda Canyon Road is the prudent, reasonable, and safer course of action for ALL users of the gravel road, including MPV's future guests. We are all aware that the county has already approved that the entrance CAN be located on Soda Canyon Road, and as stated by one of the representatives during the meeting last week, placement of the main entrance near the existing entrance on Soda Canyon Road would be a wise move on the part of MPV to gain some goodwill among all of its Soda Canyon Road neighbors.
Please do not hesitate to let us know of any other questions and we sincerely hope that MPV will not only place the entrance on Soda Canyon Road, but will also come back to us with a revised compromise that adequately reconsiders the size of the project to make it more commensurate with the rural location in which it is planned.
|Anthony Arger - May 19, 2014 3:28PM Share
A small group of Soda Canyon/Loma Vista neighbors (the "Developer Committee" – as established at our April 19 neighborhood meeting) met with the developer (Steven Rea), winery consultant (Donna Oldford), and hired civil engineer (Paul Bartelt) for Mountain Peak Vineyards on Thursday, May 15 to voice all of the serious concerns (traffic, water, environmental, fire safety, precedent for future wineries, dust, etc.) that were raised at the April 19 neighborhood meeting.
Our committee repeatedly expressed that the project, as proposed, is far too large for this rural location 7 miles up Soda Canyon Road, and requested that they reconsider the overall size of the project, particularly the large number of winery visitors, which as of now, will be 18,496 persons per year (and remember, this figure of ~ 18,500 annual winery visitors does NOT include the ~25 winery employees, caterers, large number of vineyard workers, delivery trucks, and other farm related personnel that will also be utilizing Soda Canyon Road on a daily basis).
The developer has offered to make very modest changes to the project, which are contained in the attached letter titled "Proposed Compromise Agreement." The only change of any significance is the movement of the main winery entrance to the paved portion of Soda Canyon Road, which is currently to be located on the gravel road, back to Soda Canyon Road (see attached documents titled "MPV Maps").
Other than the offer to reduce the number of annual permitted guests by 329 from 18,496 to 18,167, there was no offer to reduce the overall size of the project, which means that none of the neighborhood's concerns with regards to traffic, road safety, water, fire safety, or environmental impacts will be mitigated.
As a result of MPV's failure to offer a reduction in the overall size of the project, NONE of the neighbors at the meeting (those listed on the "Proposed Compromise Agreement") signed the agreement, nor are they going to sign the agreement. This means that MPV may retract their compromise and the project may move forward as originally proposed, with the main winery entrance located on the gravel road. This will significantly impact all neighbors living on the gravel road. It is hoped that MPV will keep the main winery entrance location on the paved portion of Soda Canyon Road, as the county has already approved it, and it is a much more prudent, reasonable, and safe location for ~ 18,500 visitors to enter this massive project. However, we will not know this information until the developer submits its final plans to the county, which is expected during the week of May 19.
|Bill Hocker - May 12, 2014 7:50AM Share
I have waded through the Planning Commission agenda minutes for the last year an a half to see what those cumulative effect might be and tabulated them here.
|Glenn & Judy Schreuder - May 6, 2014 2:46PM Share
[letter to Peter Jensen, County beat reporter for the Napa Valley Register]
My name is Glenn Schreuder and my family has lived continuously in upper Soda Canyon since ~1956.
I'm not sure if you are aware yet or not but a very large winery facility has been proposed in the heart of rural, remote upper Soda Canyon that includes among other features, a cave complex totaling 65,000 SF.
The proposed vehicular traffic equally impressive totaling ~ 18,500 trips per year on a stretch of road that was last re-paved when I attended Vintage High School in the early 1980s. Now Soda Canyon road is so beat up it's more like "cobblestones" in many, many spots because the road is, quite literally, in pieces. Unfortunately broken asphalt is somehow just not as pretty as European cobbles are, but that's a topic for another day.
There is significant and widespread opposition among the neighborhood, all the way from lower Soda Canyon to Middle and Upper Soda Canyon as well as Loma Vista Drive. To be honest, I would be hard-pressed to recall anyone I have spoken to who has said they are in favor of this massivey-scaled winery project as proposed.
Anyway, it's late so I'll wrap this email up: Is this the kind of story that would be "up your alley" Peter?
Thanks for your time in reading my email to you. I know I sure enjoy reading your articles so thank you for the work you do, it's appreciated.
|Bill Hocker - Apr 30, 2014 5:00PM Share
[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
|Glenn & Judy Schreuder - Apr 29, 2014 12:31PM Share
Below is a list of the major concerns we have discussed to include in
communications to the neighborhood and at the neighborhood meeting.
We invite and encourage everyone to please add any additional concerns you may
have, as we would like to formulate a comprehensive list to provide to the
developer PRIOR to the public hearing date. Your input and support is greatly
1) Overall size/scope of the project is NOT commensurate with the rural location
(i.e. overall project size, gallons permitted, enormous caves, large buildings,
everything must be downsized).
2) Increased worker and visitor traffic to MPV will (a) increase risk for accidents,
(b) cause further deterioration of the already poorly maintained roadway (c)
impede evacuation in the event of a fire.
3) Fire Safety: Increased traffic, tour buses, may cause fires. Is alternate fire
egress through Antica a practical solution in the event of a fire?
4) Tasting Room Hours must be more limited: MPV is currently proposing to be
open until 6pm. Any visitor center in such a remote location should be closing no
later than 4:00pm.
5) Noise from late night marketing events. Limit the marketing events hours. MPV
is currently proposing to stay open until 10pm for these events which is
6) Reduce the number of permitted guests. Number of permitted guests and
hours of visitor center operation should align closely with the permit of another
nearby winery operation.
7) Current proposed winery entrance location on the heavily used gravel road is
fundamentally dangerous and should be moved to be on Soda Canyon Road.
8) Water availability and stream pollution concerns. The sheer size of proposed
MPV operation may potentially cause surrounding wells to go dry.
9) Environmental concerns: Removal of dirt and rock to build 65,000 Square Feet
(SF) of underground dirt and placement of said dirt on the MPV property will
create environmental hazards for the creek (i.e. silt into the creek, harm fish and
other wildlife). This could also create water pollution issues for neighbors and the
downstream water supply for the town of Yountville.
10) Dust concerns: Creation of dust during long construction period may adversely
impact neighbors' animals, crops, and health.
11) Precedent: The approval of this project sets a bad precedent that will pave the
way for several other large scale wineries to be established on Soda Canyon Road.
Thank you to all of those who were able to attend the neighborhood meeting to
show your support. We appreciate your efforts and look forward to working with
all of you as this project progresses. For everyone, including those who were not
at the meeting, please do not hesitate to contact us with questions and other
concerns, as we very much encourage the input and support from everyone in our
Soda Canyon community, as well as the greater Napa community, that will be
adversely affected by the MPV project and other, future projects of similar size.
|Anthony Arger - Apr 21, 2014 10:17AM Share
[This email was sent to the Developers by Anthony Arger on April 7th and is a good summary of the concerns]
Dear Steve & Donna,
We first want to say thank you for taking the time to come and meet with us last week at our home on Soda Canyon regarding the Mountain Peak Vineyards (MPV) project. We are glad to have had the opportunity to discuss our many concerns with you regarding the project and hope that in the next few weeks prior to the public hearing you can assist us in getting many of our questions answered and concerns addressed. As mentioned in my initial email to you, we want to build a good relationship with Mountain Peak Vineyards and hope we can find some common ground. Below is a summary of our concerns, along with specific questions/requests as to each.
Our general concern with regards to this project is its sheer magnitude, particularly given its rural location approximately 7 miles up Soda Canyon Road, which feeds all of our other concerns. A project with a 100,000 gallon winery, which amounts to over 44,000 cases per year, a full-service tasting room, and 65,000 square feet of caves is not appropriate for the rural and hard to reach location at the end of Soda Canyon Road. Put simply, the size of this project simply does not work for this particular rural location.
Question/Request for MPV
1) Please reconsider the overall size and scope of this project and scale it back to a size that is more commensurate for the rural location and community.
Traffic, Road Safety & Fire Safety Concerns Due to Size of the Winery Operations
The traffic driving up and down the length of Soda Canyon Road is already a problem. From our calculations that we spoke of during the meeting, a total of 18,486 people will be permitted to visit the tasting room on an annual basis. There will also be 19 full-time employees, 4 part-time employees year round, plus an additional 4 during harvest season. There will also be vineyard workers, delivery trucks, etc. All of this means a significant increase in the daily traffic up and down the road, which significantly increases the likelihood for accidents and other incidents. There is also the increased risk of fires in an already high fire danger area. In the event of a fire, the only road out is back down Soda Canyon, which could prove disastrous for everyone with significant increases in traffic.
We understand there was a traffic report conducted that said the increase was acceptable, but as residents and regular users of this road, we strongly disagree with this conclusion and believe the overwhelming increase in traffic will be devastating to the already deteriorating condition on the road, which will of course adversely affect us as residents, and presents serious safety concerns for everyone using the road.
Questions/Requests for MPV
1) Again, please reconsider the overall size and scope of this project in light of the adverse impacts the increased traffic will have on the road.
2) Please provide us with an electronic version of the traffic report ASAP.
Reduce the Number of Permitted Guests
In alignment with the traffic concerns described above is the sheer volume of visitors that will be permitted to visit the tasting room. While we understand that it is not the intention of MPV to use the entire visitor allotment, we also realize the importance of direct sales in tasting rooms, meaning that this full allotment may in fact get realized sooner than anticipated, bringing with it serious effects on public safety along the entire road.
Questions/Requests for MPV
1) Please significantly reduce the number of daily visitors to the winery. Based on the remote location and resulting traffic concerns, 80 visitors per day, 320 per week, along with additional marketing events guests, totaling 18,496 people per year is more than Soda Canyon can handle.
Limit the Tasting Room Hours to 10am to 4pm
The current tasting room hours for MPV are stated to be from 10am-6pm. Through our experience of owning a winery and operating a tasting room, most of the people who visit after 4pm are intoxicated and should no longer be served. If MPV is to remain open until 6pm on a daily basis, this significantly increases the likelihood that there will be intoxicated drivers leaving MPV and traveling down 6.5 miles of very treacherous Soda Canyon Road. This raises serious safety concerns for not only ourselves as your next door neighbors, but also for the entire Soda Canyon community. In addition, the sun sets at approximately 5:00pm during the winter months, which would compel tasting room guests to navigate the road in dim light or even complete darkness.
Questions/Requests for MPV
1) Please limit the hours of the tasting room from 10am-4pm so as to avoid the increased possibility of intoxicated drivers leaving the property and injuring or even killing others driving up/down the road.
Limit the Marketing Events Hours to 9pm or Earlier
At present, the marketing events hours will be allowed to continue until 10pm. We are concerned not only with the potential for late night noise, but also for intoxicated drivers leaving late at night. Ending the marketing events an hour or two earlier may significantly mitigate these potential issues.
Questions/Requests for MPV
1) Please limit the marketing events hours to 9pm or earlier.
Current Winery Entrance Location is Dangerous & Should be Moved Back to Soda Canyon Rd
At present, the visitor/tourist entrance to MPV winery will be approximately 50 feet from the entrance to our home. With such a large volume of tourists, many of whom will likely never have been up Soda Canyon Road before, we have serious personal safety concerns of entering and exiting our driveway in such close proximity to potentially intoxicated drivers entering or exiting your winery. This issue is exacerbated by the fact the gravel road is a one lane road that is already heavily trafficked due to the residents, vineyard workers, and vineyard equipment trucks that use it to access all of the other properties beyond our respective properties.
We realize two "turnouts" have been requested for the creation of the winery entrance on this gravel road, but as residents of this narrow, gravel road for seventeen years, we can assure you that this is not a safe or prudent location to make an entrance to a commercial winery expecting 18,496 visitors per year. If that portion of the road/winery entrance does in fact have to be paved, as Donna indicated it does, that will only encourage vineyard workers and other users of the road to drive faster in front of our gate and in front of your winery entrance, creating a serious safety hazard. If the entrance is moved back to the paved portion of Soda Canyon, people driving down the gravel road must slow down at the curve before getting back on the paved road, meaning that if the commercial entrance was on the paved portion of Soda Canyon, there would be less risk for accidents involving our family, other residents, vineyard workers, and your guests.
In addition to the safety issues, it appears that from our initial investigation our property line extends to the middle of the gravel road. We are still investigating both the property line and the easement issues for all users of the road, but it seems as though it will be more complicated than initially anticipated by MPV.
Questions/Requests for MPV:
1) Please provide all information pertaining to the gravel road easement for MPV at your earliest convenience.
2) Please review the current plans with your engineer and move the location of the winery entrance to Soda Canyon Road. After looking at the map, it seems entirely possible to have both the winery service entrance and tourist entrance in close proximity to one another off of Soda Canyon Road.
3) Please provide an electronic version of the civil engineering report ASAP. We are pleased to be meeting with Paul Bartelt later this week and it would greatly assist us in being prepared for the meeting if we can review the report beforehand.
We were pleased to learn of the LYVE system being put in place to recycle water on the property. However, this system still does not alleviate our serious concern with regards to the future availability of water not only for us, but also for all of the other residents in the area. In light of the current drought in CA, other wells drying up on other mountain communities in Napa, and the increasing number of vineyards and residents on Soda Canyon Road, we are very concerned that MPV, with its expansive production facilities and vineyard operations will use more than its allotted water amount and literally suck our wells dry.
1) Please provide us with an electronic copy of any Phase 1 environmental reports that have been done on the property ASAP so we can evaluate what has been considered with regards to the water.
2) Please explain how MPV is going to protect our groundwater well and those of other nearby neighbors so that all the wells in the area are not adversely impacted by MPV's activities that could ultimately deplete the groundwater on all the properties surrounding this project.
As mentioned in a prior email, a large portion of our 2013 crop was severely damaged by the dust created from your clearing of the lower section of your vineyard. Based on the proposed size of this construction project, we are deeply concerned over the effects the dust from the clearing of vineyards, digging of caves, and dumping of tailings next to our vineyards will have on our crops for the next several years.
1) Please provide further information from your engineer as to what will be done to mitigate the dust issues.
2) Please evaluate the possibility of moving the tailings pile at the North end of our property to a different location.
3) In the event that neither of the above concerns regarding dust can be mitigated, we would like MPV to purchase the affected portions of our vineyard on an acreage basis (i.e. not grapes by the ton, but grapes by the acre) for a fair market, set dollar amount.
Continuance of Winery Permit Hearing Date
In light of all of the above concerns, we kindly request that the (tentative) permit hearing date of Wednesday, May 7 be pushed back to later in May or even in June. We realize and understand the financial implications for MPV, but in light of all the issues, namely the water issues and engineering/easement issues with the gravel road, we would like additional time to conduct our own research on these issues. Please remember that we have owned our property for seventeen years, have invested significant amounts of our time, money, and energy, and would appreciate additional time to investigate all of the adverse impacts this project will have on our property.
Questions/Requests for MPV
1) As the applicant and only entity that can request a continuance, please make a continuance request with the county to push the date of the hearing back.
Thank you again for taking the time to meet with us last week and we look forward to receiving your responses with regards to all of the questions and concerns we have outlined above. While we believe these issues address most of our concerns, we undoubtedly will have more in the coming weeks and similarly hope you will be able to help us work through them.
Please do not hesitate to let us know of any questions and please confirm our meeting with Steve and Paul for this Thursday, 4/10 at 1pm, as that timing works well for us.
|Lucia Hossfeld - Apr 15, 2014 9:39PM Share
[Email sent to the Napa County Planning Commissioners]
I am writing this personal email to inform you that my familly and I are very concerned and ultimately against the proposed Mountain Peak Vineyards, LLC use permit #B14-00226 on Soda Canyon Road.
We live on Loma Vista Drive and have lived there since 1981. We already witness and worry about how dangerous and how 'highway-like' Soda Canyon road can be at certain peak times during the day. Especially in reference to the vineyard crews that drive in every morning forming a huge caravan of cars racing up Soda Canyon road and then exiting that same day. Additionally during the harvest time , Soda Canyon Road becomes very dangerous with huge trucks loaded with tons of wine grapes racing up and down Soda Canyon Road.
Not only is traffic one of our concerns regarding the proposed use permit, the amount of water that the proposed winery will use is a huge concern. There is only a certain amount of water in these springs and aquifers and most residents and vineyards on Soda Canyon and Loma Vista Drive all tap into these water resources via well. We have been farming and growing grapes on our ranch for 27 years and could not make a living at all if we were to run out of water. Our grape vines would surely die because we are a terraced hillside vineyard that requires irrigation. Since the proposed use permit is of a huge gallonage it will likely use a lot of water for not only its vineyard operations but for the winery operations as well . It seems that it will definitely jeopardize everyone's water availability and their wells.
I think that a winery of this size does not fit in with the image and the actual capacity of Soda Canyon. I am begging you not to approve this use permit because we will likely run out of water in Soda Canyon and Loma Vista road and the road can't handle that amount of traffic.
[Response from John McDowell, Deputy Planning Director, Napa County Planning, Building and Environmental Services Department (707) 299-1354]
Thank you for the correspondence. I am forwarding this to Shaveta Sharma, who is managing the project processing for the Planning Division, and she is familiar with all of the details of the proposal. Correspondence to the Commission will be included in the Staff Report Packet provided to the Commission a week prior to the public hearing. Shaveta will know when this project may be scheduled for hearing. I have also include Melissa Frost who clerks our Commission meetings including distribution of correspondence.
|Bill Hocker - Apr 1, 2014 3:11PM Share
I found this article
to be an interesting discussion regarding the necessity to interpret what is meant in the measure J and P Ordinances that govern development in agricultural preserves. Measures J and P state that provisions governing the "intent and maximum building intensity" of agricultural land won't be changed without a vote of the people. To what extent does a wine tourism project of this scale constitute an increase in the maximum building intensity?
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