Letter to MPV regarding our concerns
on the web at: http://sodacanyonroad.org/forum.php?p=129
Anthony Arger | Apr 21, 2014

[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.

General Concern
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.

Water Concerns
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.

Questions/Requests:
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.

Dust Concerns
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.

Questions/Requests:
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.

Sincere Regards,
Anthony


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