SodaCanyonRoad | County Supervisors, Khashoggi and the Angwin cookie jar

County Supervisors, Khashoggi and the Angwin cookie jar
George Caloyannidis | Nov 29, 2018 on:


On December 4, the Supervisors are scheduled to adopt the so called Winery Compliance Resolution. If this sounds reassuring, think again.

The way the County defines winery compliance is far from what the common man understands under this label. When wineries exceed wine production, visitations and numbers of events above their use permit levels, this is when they are out of compliance. One would expect that when the County proposes to bringing them into compliance, it would compel them to operate under their use permits for at least some substantial period of time. That would not only be respect for the law, restore unfair competition towards law abiding wineries and rectify their escape from environmental review thus adding to our traffic without mitigations.

Regretfully, the way the County proposes to treat "compliance" is to legalize violations with revised use permits, in essence adjusting the law to fit the crime; even better, it brings the County rather the wineries into compliance.

"Words matter" as president to be Barak Obama once said in 2007. Words can inspire and can fool the public.

And since I am quoting presidents, most peoples' moral sense was offended when President Trump decided against placing sanctions on Saudi Arabia for the horrific dismembering of Jamal Khashoggi by risking a $100 barrel of oil. "This is not who we are" reverberated throughout the country. But here we are in Napa County.

Without claiming a moral equivalency to a horrific crime or national interests, if there is any doubt how corrosive this loose play with our collective moral values is even beginning at the local level, one can look back to the Summer of 2015 when I unsuccessfully appealed the County's decision to forgive numerous egregious violations at the Reverie winery with a new use permit by bringing it into "compliance" (it sold a few weeks later with several millions of ill gotten gains added to its value). At the time we asked Mr. Rothman, teacher at Angwin Elementary School to pose the following question to his 7th and 8th graders: "If I passed around a cookie jar and asked each of you to take no more than three cookies but some of you took six, should they be allowed to keep them?". We can still celebrate; not one single child said they should.

At least in 2015 these children understood morality, but if we continue down this path from a small county to the entire nation where money trumps it, we will end up in the kind of society which we will have deserved.

On December 4, the small children at Angwin Elementary will be looking down at the Supervisors' desk.

George Caloyannidis

Bill Hocker - Nov 29, 2018 11:25AM

Mr. Caloyannidis has sent along these more specific comments:

Below I distill the main issues with the proposed Winery Compliance Resolution.

1) It increases the discretionary power of the PBES Director (Morrison) to determine which of the violating wineries' applications require a public hearing and which do not. If he decides they do not, he grants new use permits. This limits public comment at the Planning Commission level.

2) It gives a penalty pass towards new winery use permits which recognize their violations if they submit a "substantially conforming" application by March 29, 2019. But the deadline can be extended for "extenuating circumstances" for up to 120 days but that can again be extended for extenuating circumstances, both at the "Director's sole discretion".

3) It also grants these violators the right to apply for additional increases in use permits over and above the violation ones.

4) Such ministerial approvals will be almost impossible to appeal to the BoS because the public will have to rely on the County website postings in order to submit a comment in order to acquire legal standing for an appeal.

5) The only penalty wineries which miss that (flexible) deadline will be to undergo CEQA under the original use permit baseline (which they need to consent to) and be required to operate for one year under their original use permit.

6) There are no provisions of how repeat offenders will be handled.

7) No provisions on how wineries who do not apply at all will be handled.

8) No provisions for a County auditing program so as to prevent violators in the future.

9) While these wineries will be required to submit annual reports on production, they are not required to do so for their marketing activities.

The more general concerns at issue here are:

1) According to the last winery audit in 2013, 40% of all audited wineries were out of compliance. We have about 500 wineries now.

2) The proliferation of use permit violators on traffic, visitations, events, production has had profound impacts throughout the valley in terms of advancing these increases without mitigations by escaping CEQA review. As per recent court rulings, the CEQA baseline on applications must recognize existing conditions even if they have been caused by unpermitted operations.

3) These illegal increases in winery marketing and production have had deleterious effects on the commercial activities in the cities. The unmitigated increases on traffic have also had an equally negative effect on accessibility and the commercial activities in the cities from American Canyon to Calistoga resulting in store and restaurants closures as they complete in a short labor market and food service.