Jan 22, 2015

The County of Napa General Plan promotes the maintenance of agriculture in the unincorporated areas of the county. It advocates that development occurring in the county should be concentrated in the cities. The basic attitude is "don't touch us and you can do whatever you want within the urban boundaries". I've taken the same attitude here until I was exposed to Napa Pipe, and began to realize that the protections of the Napa General Plan to contain urban growth have become paper thin.

Volker Eisele, a master strategist playing a very difficult game, made an amazing effort to protect ag (as everyone in the know seems to call agriculture) with the passage of Measure J in 1990 and its extension with Measure P in 2007. It required the annexation of county lands by municipalities to be voted by the citizens of the county. No longer could it be done by the Supervisors. Like the ag preserve of 1968, Measure J was a landmark piece of legislation, quickly adopted elsewhere to promote slow growth policies.

But it contains an obvious flaw. A vote of the people can change ag use to urban use at any time - a simple majority of the vote. And the voters of Napa County are rapidly changing. Sean Scully of the NVR has done editorials on the changing demographics of the county here and here.

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