|Jul 12, 2018|
Napa County Strategic Plan
Following the narrow defeat of Measure C in the June 2018 election, a campaign that acrimoniously divided not only the wine industry from residents in Napa county, but (more importantly) divided the wine industry itself into pro-development and pro-conservation camps, the County Board of Supervisors, perhaps led by its more conservation-minded members, has called for a new process to seek consensus on the issues raised by the Measure. And to continue a process already begun, but interrupted last year, to chart long term development goals and strategies for the county.
The previous process was a group of Strategic Planning Retreats, cut short by a CEO turnover and the October fires. But the roots of that process go back further.
In February of 2014, when the Mountain Peak project first drew us into land use issues, there were already faint rumblings of concern about the number of winery projects being approved at the planning commission, the marketing (tourism) orientation of the use permit requests and changing character that tourism was bringing to the Napa Valley. As more projects came before the commission, community groups throughout the county found their common cause in opposing the development that was beginning to threaten the rural quality of their lives and the rural character that the County government nominally pledged to protect.
In 2015, in response to pushback throughout 2014 against numerous projects at PC meetings and in editorials, over 400 people attended a joint BOS/Planning Commission meeting on Mar 10th to express their concern about winery proliferation and the tourism impacts that it represented. In response the BOS set up a committee, the Agricultural Protection Advisory Commission (APAC) to study the issue.
The Commission got off to a good start with a good faith effort by the Planning Director to propose limits for winery development that had the potential to change to direction of winery development in the county. It became apparent early, however, that the committee members hoping for more development limitations were well outnumbered by wine industry/business interests, and the votes against proposals for any real reform of the status quo began to stack up. In the end very modest recommendations were made and even those were watered down by the BOS. From the standpoint of the community concern that initially caused the creation of APAC, nothing was done to slow building projects in the agricultural areas of the county.
To community members, APAC was an example of the failure of a government-citizen deliberative process to address the impacts of development in a county dominated by business interests. There would be two further major deliberations in the coming year, Walt Ranch and the Syar Expansion, each with extensive community participation, that ended with development projects proceeding and many feeling that government cared more about corporations and plutocrats than about residents. Those three failures, along with numerous individual projects at the planning commission, created a sense that government deliberation was a feeble approach to slow the pace of development, and, directly responding to the issues raised by Walt Ranch, Measure C was born.
Measure C was also unsuccessful. But the margin of the loss was close enough, and the angst at the government level that citizens must circumvent government to have their concerns heard, that a new call for another deliberative process, the Napa Strategic Plan, has been taken up. Will this process begin to address the pace of development that is already threatening the rural, small-town quality of life, preserved through great efforts to halt development over the last 50 years, that makes Napa a unique enclave in the urbanized Bay Area? Let the deliberations begin.
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After Measure C: a strategic plan
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