Hotels spill into the vineyards
Bill Hocker | Jun 30, 2017
NVR 6/29/17: County studies proposed Oak Knoll hotel on rare rural commercial property
Yountville Sun 6/29/17: Neighbors Not Sold on Oak Knoll Hotel Project
County Oak Knoll Hotel page
EIR Notice of Preparation
Given the relentless explosion of hotel projects in Napa, it is only a matter of time before overnight accommodation is included in Napa County's definition for agriculture - just as food service is now - to allow for their construction in the vineyards. The Oak Knoll Hotel, filling up a parcel on a legacy commercially zoned parcel surrounded by Agricultural Resource zoned land, is a forerunner of a trend that will become increasingly common in the current development frenzy to convert agricultural land to more profitable use. We already have the examples of the Carneros Inn and the Poetry Inn and the approved resort at Stanley Ranch. And the always threatened Altamura hotel at Trancas and the Trail. A highly respected grower-vintner is also proposing a hotel adjacent to one of his wineries. Again, as with Oak Knoll, the zoning technically allows it, but the incorporation of overnight stays into the heart of the agricultural landscape, perhaps even more impactful than the event-center wineries currently being approved throughout the vineyards, sets a precident that will up the pressure to change the definition of agriculture to allow inclusion of such use on a routine basis.
In this case, as in others, the County seems determined to insure that the least agricultural use of the land possible under county codes will be approved. It is an approach that will eventually result in every vineyard in the county being graced with buildings and parking lots.
The county policy in the General Plan that applies to this legacy property use, Policy AG/LU-45 states that :
"With respect to Policies AG/LU-44 and 45, due to the small numbers of such parcels, their limited capacity for commercially viable agriculture due to pre-existing uses and/or size, location and lot configuration, and the minimal impact such commercial operations and expansions will have on adjacent agriculture or open space activities or the agricultural and open space character of the surrounding area, such limited development will not be detrimental to Agriculture, Watershed or Open Space policies of the General Plan."
This parcel is eminently suited for agricultural use, leased perhaps to the owner of the adjacent vineyards. The "minimal impact" of a 50 room hotel, 33 employees and 109-space parking lot, on the open-space character of the surrounding vineyards plus the traffic load, water and sewer concerns such a project presents, should be a point of contention between the county and the developer. Unfortunately it is left to neighbors and others with a real concern for the rural character of the county, as has been the case in every development proposal these last so many years, to champion a less urban use against the combined efforts of county and developer. Paradise is being paved over in one building project after another as the official gardians of the county's rural heritage fall over themselves to promote development interests, hoping to bolster government coffers while really just adding to the government expense of maintaining a more urban environment.
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