New Year's resolutions at the BOS 1/5/16
Bill Hocker | Jan 7, 2016
I have attached a letter I sent to the County last fall, soon after the Reverie appeal had been considered before the BOS. I’m hopeful that by resending this request, that I will get a response. Somewhere, this got lost in the shuffle, and I still need a follow up to ascertain what went wrong between the different areas within County Government. Thank you for taking a look at the enclosure.
My definition of “THE INDUSTRY” : All the tourism related activities within the County except the growing of grapes and the making of wine. This includes event centers masquerading as wineries, hotels, restaurants, wineries with internal hidden food service kitchens, Visit Napa Valley, and bottling factories for imported grapes.
This letter addresses my concerns going into this next year having seen little to no progress from our politicians in the County. Last March 10, it was apparent to the people of Napa that an imbalance has been in the making for a very long time here. The positive impacts from the INDUSTRY and improved quality of life have all gone to the brokers of the INDUSTRY. It has improved their quality of life, while the people’s quality of life has been diminished. This has occurred as a direct result of the bias that has evolved within Government politics. It’s a naturally occurring thing, and it’s not too late to recognize this and alter course. Nothing has changed since March. The people have had to endure the policy from the Zucker Report, which essentially gave ”after the fact” forgiveness to violators of Use and Building Permits; although it was rescinded in the December 2005 Resolution # 05-229. I quote: “Whereas, the Board finds that certain provisions contained in the Manual, among them being a fee forgiveness program, are in fact a hindrance and obstacle to effective code compliance efforts, and may not further the objective of taking appropriate enforcement actions on a case by case bases…” So we let Caves at Soda Canyon, Bell, Reverie, Melka, Markham, and all the others get away with it.
We’ve also seen biased recommendations from the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee. Whomever designed the format and makeup of the APAC might have realized that with super majority votes required, and the majority were invested in protecting the INDUSTRY, nothing would come of it. Here’s the outcome of some significant votes that have been lost in time: Increased parcel size: NO, small winery use permit requirement: No, minimum amount of estate grapes: NO, no net loss of vineyard land: NO, calling food service an accessory use: NO. All these ideas brought by the people were nullified by the votes of the INDUSTRY. We should still insist on a 40 acre minimum lot size in the AP and 160 acre in the AWOS. The Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee would have been more aptly named the TPAC, for Tourism Protection Advisory Committee. The INDUSTRY won and the people lost. I quote one of our Supervisors who stated: “you didn’t really expect the APAC to get anything done, did you?” No I didn’t.
These types of decisions are called “passing the buck.” In this Valley, it’s the elite members of the INDUSTRY that control the political decisions. That’s why we’re in such a mess now. The INDUSTRY has the prestige, influence and political strength necessary to bias governmental decision making. This gives them the political will to continue their pursuit of more and more growth, and less and less power to the people.
Well, March was in 2015. And if you think the environmental activists made your lives busier, more complicated and more stressful; then hang on to your hats this year. There’s going to be nothing short of a revolution if the power doesn’t swing back to the people. 2016, the year we people take back control of our government. Power to the people.
Let’s begin 2016 with one basic premise: Lets grow grapes and make great wine and pursue land use decisions that promote the people’s rights, not the INDUSTRY’S greed.
1. Increase minimum parcel size for winery permit
2. New specific language to deal with “after the fact” compliance issues
3. Monitor Grape Sourcing
4. Implement strong language pursuant to accessory/hospitality and visitation
5. Mandate small winery permit process that mirrors larger permits requirements
6. Amend and strengthen AWOS conservation goals.
7. Protect our watersheds through increased awareness of cumulative impacts
8. Draft policy to positively affect wineries out of compliance.
9. New program to move much of the 2% extra TOT into environmental sustainability.
10. Work with Cities to limit new hotel rooms
[Additional Note to Supervisors on 1/6/16:]
Yesterday, in my humble attempt to influence your further deliberations, I ran long in my speech and for that I sincerely apologize. Alfredo, I understand setting a standard to which we hold all accountable.
I would ask each of you, if and when you have time, to review my comments submitted yesterday to you in hard copies. What I'm trying to get across to you is this: I believe that the first thought that should enter your minds when confronted with a land use decision should be: " what would the residents/the citizens/the people want from this decision?" What I believe you are saying to yourselves is; " how can we maintain a viable winery/tourism industry while attempting to keep it under control to some degree?"
Those of us who have lived here for several decades have seen our personal quality of life be diminished. I moved here because it was clearly the best place on earth to live. Its not anymore. Its a magnificent place to vacation, though! And you all know this, but it appears you feel the train is running down the tracks and can be slowed down, but not stopped.
Please review my comments with an open mind; knowing that my spirit is in the right place and the people need you to "have their backs." Politics is the same at all levels; the everyday citizen has his or her head in the sand, and the wealthier proponents of the Industry are very self-serving and have the wisdom and influence to be involved. Sad as this is, its true.
The people need you to have their concerns at the top of the pecking order, don't you think?
I'd really appreciate a response, but if you don't have the time, interest, or I've angered you to such an extent that is not possible, well.....I'll just have to accept that. But I will remain in the "slog" and keep trying my utmost to elevate the people's interest in our governmental decisions.
While many of us may be here for land use issues, we are are talking about how those land use decisions impact the health, welfare and safety of our citizens and children.
For example in St. Helena we are dealing with one Event Center Winery project that wants to enter and exit 66,000 wine drinking visitors a year directly through a school zone.
That is a land use decision that will certainly have an impact on those kids. I pray not fatal but I unfortunately foresee that as a likely possibility.
We are also seeing land use decisions impacting water quality and availability. Clean, available water is something we all need to survive if there was any confusion about that.
In 2016 we’re going to continue talking about and putting things on the agenda:
We'll talk about Event Center Wineries with their tourism impacts to our communities-the impacts to our zoning rights and common resources such as water, roads and public services.
We’ll be discussing deaths related to Binge Tourism from our local wine tourism surge: at least 5-8 deaths last year, maybe we should read those names in this room. Not as many people as the terrorism attack in San Bernardino, but these people are just as dead. A few new incidents over the holidays, luckily none of them fatal, never the less disturbing with assault and battery on law enforcement officers.
We’re going to talk about the fact that Napa County is not a ride at Disneyland, it’s a place were citizens of the United States live, where we have a right to demand elected officials enforce laws and rules in place to protect our citizens
We’ll talk about encroachment from commercial tourism on Ag and residential zoning, we’ll talk about drunk bicycle riders and drivers getting themselves killed and putting the rest of us in danger.
We’ll talk this year about how it would behoove small independent winery owners and growers to stand up for the rights and safety of their fellow citizens while they still have the opportunity. Those independent owners and growers will want the citizens around to stand up for when the leveraged buyout or hostile corporate takeover paints its target on them, as it moves up the food chain.
We’ll talk this year about real estate agents needing to disclose to clients how changes to the Definition of Agriculture and Winery Definition Ordinance impact residential and Ag zoning
as well as the the AG Preserve. How somebody buying or owning Ag or residential property in Napa county needs to understand that under current polices almost every acre of Napa County land is vulnerable to high intensity commercial incursion.
We’ll continue talking about why changes to the The Definition of Agriculture and WDO - weren't a Measure P vote. ( Note: I didn’t read this next line: how that process could be considered at best special interest legislation, at worst, insider trading)
We’ll talk about “dream wineries” - how that dream is not viable if it requires encroaching on neighbors zoning and the plundering the common resources of the community.
We’ll talk about how Winery Use permit abuse is not a victimless violation, how the victims are the people of our the community who’s common resources and zoning is being co-opted, often the very community that has supported the violator.
We’ll talk about how the Zucker Report was rescinded and the lack of adequate enforcement in our county.
We’ll talk about needing to analyze impacts to our residents from over promotion of Napa County with no analysis of impacts,
We’ll talk about water and watersheds, deforestation. 10,000 trees proposed to be cut down for a Calistoga Resort, another 28,000 tree deforestation in the watershed just east of Napa city.
We’ll talk about Napa County Chainsaw wine.
We’re gonna talk about press and media - about CBS , ABC, the LA Times and Associated Press, who are aware of our situation here, and I’m not referring to “Cabernet Season”, but rather these issues of zoning encroachment, illegal operations, deforestation and Napa County Binge Tourism with the associated deaths.
Finally we’re gonna talk this year about greed and karma
Greed that can become like a blinding contagious infection, obscuring moral responsibilities and our roles as neighbors and citizens of the United States
And Karma, forever poised to reveal itself.
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