SodaCanyonRoad | To the County Board of Supervisors:

To the County Board of Supervisors:

Mike Hackett | May 20, 2015 on: The Caves at Soda Canyon

[statement to the Napa Board of Supervisors delivered at the PC meeting on 5/20/15]

I would like to bring to your attention the recent actions from our County Planning Commission regarding winery use permit violations. I feel compelled to speak to you today because these Commissioners are seated at your discretion, and it's apparent that they are slow to react to the change in attitude in and outside this County building.

I believe the change began after the 2014 election cycle, after Mr. Pedroza took over for Bill Dodd, and most importantly, when we were fortunate enough to hire Mr. Morrison. I have learned that Planning Director Morrison is level-headed, hard-working, smart and is pursuing a balanced approach. He also knows that he works with, and FOR the Supervisors. Its no coincidence then that a broad coalition of interested citizens have joined in the call for change.

I would like to highlight an example: Brought to the PC last week was the Caves on Soda Canyon project where it was apparent to all that the principle had gone WAY outside his use permit and violated his building permit. Mr. Lederer and Commissioner Scott talked directly with the principle. Their memory of the initial project was quite different than the finished product. Mr. McDowell spoke of numerous infractions during the meeting. The County had him caught “red-handed” in this illegal action. As you all know, a ventilation shaft had been turned into a 4th portal offering a view over the valley to the west. Then a large concrete party/viewing patio was poured, without a permit.

I wish you had all been there. The individual was asked to “cover up” the portal, leave the deck as is, and reapply for proper permits in a year. The principle’s actions were egregious, purposeful, and he was rewarded with a slap on the wrist. The clear perception we are left with is that he’ll get this permitted next year. In recent weeks the Planning Commission has exercised extremely soft treatment to violators. I do not believe this is the message that this County wants to send.

On several occasions the Planning Commissioners have alluded to the need to wait for your direction after the APAC finishes and our Planning Director moves his recommendations forward. I would like to recommend that all of you have a dialogue with your respective Planning Commissioners about the new norm that will encourage us all to take care of the finite resources within our County.