Oct 14, 2014

Yountville Hill

Update 7/18/20
What ever happened to this project? It was the cause célèbre that began this era of community opposition to the impacts of tourism on the character of the valley. And then it just whimpered away after it was "to receive more scrutiny". It has disappeared from the County's ongoing projects list.

Save Yountville Hill, a neighborhood association, is currently opposing the 100,000 gal/yr Yountville Hill tourism facility on Hwy 29.

Save Yountville Hill Website (now gone)
The County's Yountville Hill page with DEIR (gone)
Executive Summary of the Yountville Hill DEIR
Notice of Preparation of a Draft Focused EIR
8/3/16 Hearing Agenda with documents
8/3/16 Staff Agenda Letter
7/2/14 Hearing agenda and documents item 9A
7/2/14 Staff Agenda Letter
July 2, 2014 (infamous) hearing video
Appeal Packet

NVR 5/12/17: Yountville Hill winery to receive more scrutiny
NVR 3/6/17: Sklar makes case for controversial Yountville Hill winery
NVR 10/17/16: Yountville Hill Winery opponents remain critical of latest proposals
NVR 8/4/16: Napa County taking another look at Yountville Hill Winery
NVR 7/5/16: Napa County looks at smaller version of Yountville Hill Winery
B&B being remodeled at proposed Yountville winery site
Yountville Hill Winery plan going under microscope
Yountville Hill Winery proposal moving forward
Proposed Yountville Hill Winery may face further environmental studies
WineSearcher 10/21/14: Napa Winemakers Argue Over the Valley's Visual Image
Neighbors appeal Yountville Hill Winery project, cite 'abuse of discretion'
Say 'no' to Yountville Hill winery
Yountville Hill Winery opponents still debating appeal
Planning Commission decision goes against viewshed ordinance
Yountville Hill hearing was political theater
Controversial 3-1 vote Okays Yountville Hill
Yountville Hill winery wins narrow approval from planners
Opposition to Yountville Hill grows
Planned Yountville Hill Winery draws protest
New 100,000 Gal. Winery Proposed on Yountville Hill


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The return of Yountville Hill

Bill Hocker - May 11, 2017 10:18AM  Share #1291

Update 5/11/17
NVR 5/11/17: Yountville Hill winery to receive more scrutiny

The cost of the EIR goes from $213,000 to $450,000 to sign off on the outrageous traffic problems to be created by a major tourist attraction at that congested stretch of Hwy 29. Even from the standpoint of developers, corporations and plutocrats used to throwing money at their fantasies of profit and fame to be made from good-life marketing, this is a substantial sum to address the political pro forma of an EIR.

The County Yountville DEIR page

Update 3/3/17
NVR 3/3/17: Sklar makes case for controversial Yountville Hill winery

Prepping the public for more grief later in the spring over his plans to rubbish a prominent oak hillside in the center of the valley, the developer promises "this will be the end of my career". Sooner rather than later let's hope.

NVR 8/4/16: Napa County taking another look at Yountville Hill Winery

At the Planning Commission meeting of Aug 3rd, 2016, Commissioner Heather Phillips announced in disclosures that she would be recusing herself from the review of the Yountville Hill DEIR. She read a statement (transcribed here) indicating that council for Yountville Hill would challenge her right to hear the project based on the fact that a member of her family had participated with a neighborhood group opposing the project, allegedly representing a conflict of interest. She chose to recuse herself rather than bear the intimidating legal costs of a defense. The video of the hearing is here.

As she notes and as you can read here, this is not an isolated incident. Heather Phillips, as the most outspoken commissioner concerning the negative impacts of continued winery proliferation, has been challenged now three times by those interested in furthering a development agenda in the county. In a one-industry place like Napa it is unlikely that everyone who serves in a public capacity will have no connection to the wine industry or be free from its impacts. As an example noted before, one commissioner has been an officer in a limo company that will ultimately benefit from each new winery and winery expansion approved, yet he has never had his ability to make a fair judgement challenged. This is an attempt to influence commission decisions through strategic legal intimidation and is another indication how aggressive the industry has become in response to community opposition to the ongoing destruction of the county's rural character.

An extension for the comment period to the DEIR was granted by the commissioners through Sept. 29th. The hearing was lightly attended and the opponents' attorney was brief in her remarks, which seemed to indicate that the extension was a predictable decision.

My most recent rant on the project is here. This project should really not be built.

Yountville Hill and the No Project Alternative

Bill Hocker - Jul 29, 2016 10:17AM  Share #1287

NVR 8/4/16: Napa County taking another look at Yountville Hill Winery

As part of the CEQA process, the Draft EIR for the Yountville Hill project offers a "no project" alternative to the project being proposed. The purpose and content of the "no project" alternative is described in the CEQA guidelines section 15126.6[e] here

Although the "no project" alternative is discussed in more detail in the DEIR, the county's executive summary gets more immediately to the issue:

    "Under this alternative, the project would not be built on the project site, and as a result, none of the approvals that would be required by the County under the project would occur. The project site would remain in its existing condition, with the unoccupied residence/bed and breakfast and 2.2 acres of vineyards continuing to operate under their existing use permits."

and the summary concludes:

    "The no project alternative is the environmentally superior alternative, as all of the significant impacts of the project would be avoided. However, the no project alternative would not meet any of the project

Yountville Hill DEIR Hearing Aug 3rd (updated)

Bill Hocker - Jul 28, 2016 11:55PM  Share #1267

The DEIR for the Yountville Hill tourist attraction is on the county's Yountville Hill page here. All significant environmental concerns mitigated to less-than-significant on paper, of course. An Executive Summary of the DEIR is here

A Planning Commission public hearing on the DEIR will be held on August 3rd, 2016 beginning at 9:00am. Letters of concern may be addressed to County planner Sean Trippi through Aug 15th, 2016 (extended to Sept 29th)

Latest email:

Together with the law firm, Shute Mihaly & Weinberger, we have been preparing our comments on the recently released Draft Environmental Report (DEIR) for the Yountville Hill Winery project.

We plan to address the Planning Commission with oral comments at the August 3rd Planning Commission hearing of the DEIR, and are preparing written comments for the current August 15th deadline.

County staff is recommending a 15-day extension to the August 15th deadline, but due to the complexity and volume of the DEIR, in addition to the demands of this year

Latest News from Save Yountville Hill

Mary Ann Moffitt - May 1, 2015 3:12PM  Share #788

How can you help support Save Yountville Hill?

Save Yountville Hill recently gathered a group of its core supporters to update them on the status of the Yountville Hill Winery project application. Subsequent to that meeting, the County of Napa issued notification that the “scoping” for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required for the project’s continued consideration will begin with a public meeting on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @ 1:30pm, at the below address.

You are encouraged to participate in this process.

Napa County Administration Building
1195 Third Street, Suite 305
Napa, California

Click here for a summary of the current status of the project application.
Click on the following links to see:
County's Notification of Preparation
and the revised Project Statement submitted by the Applicant.

Save Yountville Hill remains committed to opposing the establishment of an exploitive, tourist-serving commercial facility on this highly visible and environmentally sensitive 10.9-acre site within Napa County’s Agricultural Preserve, and will evaluate the revised project application to ensure that the integrity of the County’s zoning and conservation regulations are maintained.

Participation in Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee (APAC)

In April 2015, the Napa County Board of Supervisors appointed members to the recently formed Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee (“APAC”). APAC is an advisory body of the Napa County Planning Commission, and was formed to evaluate and make policy recommendations on Napa County’s Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO) and other regulations governing winery development within Napa County.

Save Yountville Hill is pleased to have Bruce Phillips sit on the committee as a voting member.

APAC began semi-monthly meetings on April 13 and is scheduled to deliver its policy recommendations to the Napa County Planning Commission in September 2015. These policy recommendations will involve the following topics:
  1. Minimum parcel size for new wineries
  2. Minimum percentage of grapes used in the winery to be grown on-site (i.e. an estate grape requirement)
  3. Requirement that new or expanded wineries result in no net loss of vineyards
  4. Requirement that a majority of winery employees be directly engaged in vineyard or production operations
  5. Permissibility of variances for road and stream setbacks for new wineries
  6. Requirement that wineries include the number of temporary events in their use permit approval as part of its marketing plan
  7. Development standards for wineries located in the Agricultural Preserve and Agricultural Watershed zoning districts

APAC meetings are open to the public and provide for public comment on matters before the Committee.

How can you help support Save Yountville Hill?

Financial Contributions

Save Yountville Hill appreciates the dedication over the past year of its roughly 700 members who successfully appealed the decision to approve the Yountville Hill Winery, and hopes that we may continue to rely on your support as we move forward. Having expended almost $80,000 to date to oppose the project, Save Yountville Hill is grateful for the broad financial support we have received from the community.

It is anticipated that Save Yountville Hill will require an incremental $100,000 to ensure that whatever project is approved for the site is consistent with Napa County’s zoning and conservation regulations, which were designed to protect agricultural and viewshed lands from the impacts associated with commercial, tourist-serving development.

Support Save Yountville Hill by making a secure PayPal donation here

Participate in the Process:
Save Yountville Hill continues to welcome the vocal support of our position, and encourages those able to participate to attend the upcoming EIR Scoping Session on May 13, 2015. Alternatively, written comments regarding the impacts of the proposed project may be submitted to the below address:

Napa County Planning, Building, and Environmental Services Department
Attention: Sean Trippi
1195 Third Street, Suite 210
Napa, CA 94559
Telephone: (707) 299-1353
Fax: (707) 299-4235
Email: sean.trippi@countyofnapa.org

Thank you for your continued support.

Yountville Hill rises again

Mary Ann Moffitt - Apr 30, 2015 3:09PM  Share #748

[From county planner Sean Trippi: A public scoping meeting will be held by the County to inform interested parties about the proposed Yountville Hill project, and to provide agencies and the public with an opportunity to provide comments on the scope and content of the EIR. May 13th, 1:30pm in the County building, 1195 3rd St]

Notice of Preparation of a Draft Focused Environmental Impact Report for the Proposed Yountville Hill Project

Well, here it comes again. Eric Sklar (CS2 Wines) has resubmitted this? ?project. The county planning staff will hold an EIR scoping meeting on? ?Wednesday, May 13, to get input from the public about which issues they want? ?to see addressed in the EIR: traffic, water, variances to conservation? ?regs and setbacks from Hwy 29, view shed concerns, inadequate parking,? ?aggressive tours & tasting / marketing and events plans - all the usual? ?suspects rolled into one egregious project.

I've attached the Viewshed Ordinance since I'm not sure how many of you? ?are familiar with it besides Eve and Ginny. One other interesting aspect? ?of this is that the applicant owns 2 lots that total 10.9 acres and the? ?county is not requiring them combine the lots before considering the? ?project (and last time, approving it).

Regarding variances noted under Project Description - it looks like Sean? ?Trippi forgot to include the requests for the setback variance from Hwy 29? ?for the lower cave portal, at which 30 days per year of bottling, and all? ?winery deliveries will happen, and another for proximity to a neighboring? ?property on the northwest corner of the property. I'm waiting to hear? ?from him about whether they were inadvertently left out or those issues? ?were resolved in some way. I'll let you know what he says.

If you are available to attend the meeting and comment on the issues, that? ?would be great. So many projects, so little time?.? Feel free to pass this
message onto anyone you think might be interested.

Napa County Viewshed Ordinance

NVR on 4/11/15: Yountville Hill Winery proposal moving forward

The Save Yountville Hill website is here

Yountville Hill Progress Report

Mary Ann Moffitt - Dec 16, 2014 1:50AM  Share #500

Barry Eberling in the NVR:
Proposed Yountville Hill Winery may face further environmental studies

The Board of Supervisors will act on the Yountville Hill Winery appeal at their regular meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, December 16, at 10:15 a.m. It is expected that the Board will accept Staff's recommendation to rescind the Planning Commission’s approval of the project and require that an EIR be submitted. 
Please attend if you have the time and the inclination, while recognizing the applicant will most likely bring this back in the coming months where we are hoping we can count on your support and attendance.

Thank you,

Save Yountville Hill

Progress report on Yountville Hill

Mary Ann Moffitt - Dec 10, 2014 10:34AM  Share #496


As you may know, representatives from Save Yountville Hill attended mediation with the Yountville Hill Winery applicant in an attempt to reach an agreement on change to the project that addressed the concerns raised in our appeal. Despite our best efforts, the mediation concluded without the parties reaching any agreement.

However, in response to our appeal, the applicant has requested that the Planning Commissions original approval of this project be rescinded and that County staff initiate the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

As a result, we expect that County staff will issue a report recommending that the Board of Supervisors grant our appeal by rescinding the Planning Commission's approval and directing staff to initiate preparation of an EIR to analyze all of the project's environmental impacts.

If the recommendation comes forward as expected, there may be no need for us to martial a large turn-out at the upcoming Board of Supervisors hearing on December 16, 2014. We will not know anything for certain until the staff report is released later this week, so we will monitor the situation closely and let you know immediately the outcome of their decision.


This is a significant, but temporary, victory. The fight to Save Yountville Hill and ensure intelligently balanced implementation of the Winery Definition Ordinance contiues.

We expect that the Applicant will submit a revised version of his application for Yountville Hill Winery in the very near future and we are concerned that the revisions will not substantially alter the hospitality-focused, commercial nature of this project or its clearly excessive scale on an unsuitable hillside.

We remain committed to securing a scaled-down winery project that is in keeping with the site's size and physical constraints and that fully complies with the letter and the spirit of Napa County's WDO, General Plan, and all other applicable Code rules and regulations. To that end, we will review and comment on the draft EIR for any revised project before it is considered by the Planning Commission.

We believe that it's time for the Board of Supervisors to engage in a serious discussion with the community about tourism-centered proposals and to make clear that commercial uses masquerading as wineries are not appropriate for, and will not be allowed, in the Ag Preserve. Hopefully this discussion will take place in a town hall setting in February 2015.

As always, thank you for your support. We will be in touch again soon.


Save Yountville Hill

Yountville Hill hearing Dec 16th

Mary Ann Moffitt - Nov 25, 2014 3:55PM  Share #479

Firstly, thank you for your continued support of Save Yountville Hill's efforts.

We have been informed that the Napa County has continued the hearing of our appeal to TUESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2014.

We still need to FILL THE ROOM for the hearing in order to convey to the Board of Supervisors the importance of their decision to rescind the County's prior approval of this project. The applicant must be required to submit a new project that is more appropriate in nature and scale to the small, steep hillside - one of Napa Valley's most prominent view sheds.

Please come show your support!

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2014 at 9:30 AM.
Board of Supervisors Chambers
2741 Napa Valley Corporate Drive
Building #2, 1st Floor, South County Campus

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Save Yountville Hill

LTE on Yountville Hill

Bill Hocker - Nov 23, 2014 10:17PM  Share #470

Development must respect Ag Preserve

The Peggy J comment is interesting because normally I find I am in disagreement with her.
Both she and Eric criticize the fact that the grapes aren't on the winery site. I too, think that that wineries should have estate sourced grapes as a condition of approval, but there is apparently nothing in the WDO that requires it. Two tourist wineries have been built recently on Soda Canyon Road on 10 acre sites with no grapes, no residences and difficult winding uphill access driveways. This is not agriculture - just another tourist 'experience' in the remote areas of the county.

Save Yountville Hill BOS Appeal, Dec. 16nd

Mary Ann Moffitt - Nov 17, 2014 10:26AM  Share #454

Thank you for your support of our efforts to appeal the Napa County Planning Commission's approval of the Yountville Hill Winery Project.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hear our appeal on Tuesday December 16, 2014 and we need your help.

Below are two ways that you can help us to encourage the Board of Supervisors to rescind the Planning Commission's approval of the Yountville Hill Winery, a proposed hospitality-driven facility that is over-scaled for its location on Yountville Hill and is inconsistent with Napa County's General Plan and zoning ordinances.
Please visit our website (www.saveyountvillehill.org) for additional detail surrounding the proposed project, as well as the specific arguments contained in our appeal.


If, during the initial phase of our efforts, you wrote a letter to the Planning Commission or a letter to the editor, please RESUBMIT your letter to the Board of Supervisors by Tuesday November 25, 2014.

Select the below email address to send your letter directly to the Chair of the Board of Supervisors, Mark Luce.

Click HERE to send a letter to the editor of the Napa Valley Register

Please visit our website at www.saveyountvillehill.org for project specifics and arguments that you can use in your letter. You can find the arguments of our appeal here.


We need to FILL THE ROOM for the upcoming hearing in order to convey to the Board of Supervisors the importance of their decision to rescind the County's prior approval of this project.

Please come show your support!

Tuesday December 16, 2014 @ 9:30 am
Board of Supervisors Chambers
2741 Napa Valley Corporate Drive
Building #2
, 1st Floor, South County Campus

Save Yountville Hill

Yountville Hill Update

Mary Ann Moffitt - Sep 25, 2014 1:30PM  Share #361

Dear Supporter,

We want to keep you informed of recent developments related to our continuing efforts to advance our appeal to the Board of Supervisors to rescind the approval of the Yountville Hill Winery project.

- Save Yountville Hill is continuing to advance its appeal to the Board of Supervisors, understanding that Staff will be recommending that the hearing be continued until December 2, 2014.

- Save Yountville Hill has agreed to support Staff's recommendation for a continuance, particularly in light of the recent earthquake.

- The Applicant has asked Save Yountville Hill to participate in confidential mediation to discuss possible changes to the Project that could address the issues raised in our appeal.

- Save Yountville Hill is, and always has been, open to discussing a significantly scaled-down project that would address the Appellants’ concerns, and we are exploring the possibility of mediation with the Applicant.

- To date, the Applicant has not yet presented any specific scaled-down proposals.

- Unless and until the Applicant agrees to make changes to the project that address our concerns, Save Yountville Hill will continue to pursue the appeal to conclusion.

We believe we will succeed in our appeal, and that the Board of Supervisors will recognize that the County cannot lawfully approve the current project.

Thank you for your continued support of Save Yountville Hill's efforts to rescind the Planning Commission's approval of the Yountville Hill Winery project in favor of allowing the applicant to bring forward an appropriately scaled use that is in keeping with the intent and letter of Napa County’s General Plan and zoning ordinances. Please feel free to reply to this email with any questions or concerns.

Save Yountville Hill

Thank you from Yountville Hill

Mary Ann Moffitt - Sep 8, 2014 8:29PM  Share #350

Dear Supporter,

Thank you for your support in the effort to stop the Yountville Hill Winery from being approved by the Napa County Planning Commission. By signing the Save Yountville Hill petition, you " and nearly 700 other concerned individuals " urged the Commissioners to deny the approval of Yountville Hill Winery. Unfortunately, the Planning Commission approved the use permit in a controversial 3 to 1 vote on July 2, 2014.

Save Yountville Hill (SYH) was immediately formed to appeal this decision to the Board of Supervisors.

The primary arguments for the appeal are as follows:
  • The Yountville Hill Winery project does not belong in the Agricultural Preserve.
  • It is inconsistent with Napa County’s Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO) and General Plan.
  • It violates:

    • The Napa County Viewshed Protection Ordinance
    • Napa County’s mandatory conservation regulations
    • The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

  • The Variances approved by the planning commission are not supported by substantial evidence and the approval should be overturned.

SYH’s appeal was granted in August and a hearing originally scheduled for October. Because of the extraordinary circumstances created in the aftermath of the earthquake, the project hearing is delayed and will now come before the Board of Supervisors on December 2.

We ask that you continue your support and tell your Supervisor that you oppose the Yountville Hill Winery [Supervisor information here]. Please visit our updated website for complete information on the project: http://www.saveyountvillehill.org. And if you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to email us at info@saveyountvillehill.org.

We cannot succeed without your help. Your efforts are critical to the future of Yountville Hill, the Ag Preserve, and the Napa Valley as a whole. Call or email your Supervisor today and let your voice be heard loud and clear " NO to Yountville Hill Winery.

Thank you again for your support!

Sincerely yours,

Save Yountville Hill

Yountville Hill Appeal Update

Mary Ann Moffitt - Aug 4, 2014 3:25PM  Share #299

Hello everyone,

As you have probably heard by now, last week a group of appellants (Ren Harris, Christian Moueix, Mary Ann Moffitt) representing Save Yountville Hill filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the Yountville Hill Winery project with the Board of Supervisors. The document is attached. We will learn shorty if the Board accepts the appeal and schedules a hearing date. We anticipate that the hearing wouldn’t be held until October.

We are using Shute, Mihaly, Weinberger, a San Francisco law firm with a great deal of experience in Napa County:

Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP is a law firm specializing in government, land use, natural resource and environmental law. Since 1980, the firm has provided public agencies and community groups throughout California with the highest quality legal representation, offering an array of litigation, counseling and planning services. Known for its commitment to promoting environmental and community values, SMW is at the forefront of the major land use and development issues facing California today.

The core group of appellants will meet in a few days to discuss our next steps and the most effective way to move forward with the board of supervisors. Once we formalize a strategy and our message, we’ll be asking everyone to meet with them on a one-on-one basis.

Thank you so much for your support. I’ll be in touch soon to let you what comes next. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Mary Ann Moffitt
YHW APPEAL PACKET (7_30_14).pdf

Yountville Goes Against Viewshed Ordinance

Glenn & Judy Schreuder - Jul 28, 2014 11:35AM  Share #286

Some of you may know the name Jack Chandler, he’s one of the more accomplished landscape architects in the valley.

Check out his letter to the editor re. YHW here

Say 'no' to Yountville Hill

Tony McClimans - Jul 23, 2014 9:28AM  Share #278

[Napa Register letter to the editor]

Visit Napa Valley says visitors enjoy our “scenic views” most of all.

This a concept not lost on the proponents of Yountville Hill Winery, who propose a viewing platform high above the valley on the hill east of Brix restaurant.

No doubt they expect their visitors (maybe 1 percent of Highway 29 motorists) to turn right, ascend a steep driveway held in place by a quarter-mile of embankments as high as 28 feet, and arrive on top to see a stunning view. If it works as planned, it’ll be a gold mine. Good for them.

Unfortunately, the other 99 percent of motorists would see an equally stunning view of embankments and cantilevered tasting rooms that would desecrate the viewshed loved by residents and visitors alike. Bad for us.

There is growing opposition to this proposed, obtrusive, marketing facility.

To pacify those who believe this would be an eyesore, the applicant promises to magically obscure his structures and embankments with new trees. Poof! All you’ll see is trees, he promises.

Anyone who can grow enough trees on that rocky, sun-baked hill to obscure the proposed development is, indeed, a magician.

If this proposal gets built, in the ensuing decades when we drive by and regret the County lacked the courage to say "no" to such marketing facilities, it will be fitting if our car radios play the plaintive country/western song “She Got The Gold Mine, and I Got the Shaft.”

Yountville Hill Files Appeal

Bill Hocker - Jul 17, 2014 8:36AM  Share #267

Yountville Hill Neighbors, after their tense defeat in the approval of the Yountville Hill winery at the PC two weeks ago has filed for an appeal with BOS. More is here.

The Napa Register article on the appeal is here

Yountville Hill

Mary Ann Moffitt - Jul 17, 2014 8:33AM  Share #266

Hi everyone,

We filed the notice of intent to appeal to the Board of Supervisors today. I sent the information below to the Yountville Sun and Peter Jensen at the Napa Register. We will submit the full appeal packet in the next 10 days. I will let you know how things are progressing and when will meet next.

We also asked today about Ca’Nani’s recent request for a permit modification. Planning Dept staff says that they have yet another major modification in the works, so they may wait to hold a public hearing for that. We asked to be notified when that comes forward.

Thank you for your great letters to the editor!!
Mary Ann

Save Yountville Hill, a group of concerned Napa County residents opposing the proposed Yountville Hill Winery, has formally submitted their intent to appeal the Planning Commission's recent approval of the project to the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Commission approved the controversial 100,000 gallon winery and 12,850 sq. ft visitor center in the Yountville hills following a tumultuous meeting in which commissioner Matt Pope altered his position in the final moments and supported the project. More than a dozen residents and well-known vintners objected to the scale of production, over-emphasis on hospitality and marketing, increased traffic, and the extensive cut and fill construction on the hillside. To build the winery, reception building, and hospitality center, the Planning Commission approved an exception to the conservation regulations for construction on steep slopes, setback variances and a view shed application. The project plan includes just 2.5 acres of grapes.

Save Yountville Hill argues the project is inappropriate for the steep, 10.9-acre parcel, and that the aggressive marketing plan bringing more than 50,000 visitors per year to the site will make traffic more hazardous in an already highly congested section of Hwy 29. Retaining walls several stories high and visible from the highway and surrounding areas will be needed to support the roads and new buildings; landscaping is expected to take years to fill in the walls and construction areas, a difficult task on the western facing, rocky slopes. The new visitor center is three times the size of the former bed and breakfast currently on the site.

For more information, please visit www.Yountville-Hill-neighbors.org

Yountville Hill Farce

Carl Bunch - Jul 10, 2014 5:22PM  Share #257

To: napaopinion@napanews.com; brad.wagenknecht@countyofnapa.org; mark.luce@countyofnapa.org; diane.dillon@countyofnapa.org; bill.dodd@countyofnapa.org; keith.caldwell@countyofnapa.org
Subject: "Your Turn": Napa Valley Register (Tuesday, July 8)

Those of us who attended the Napa County Planning Commission hearing on July 2 pertaining to the application of Yountville Hill Winery for a use permit for a new winery on the top of Yountville Hill have had our views made known to the general Napa public by Bill Hocker, a resident of Napa. His letter, as published and characterized by the Register, refers to the process of governmental consideration of future wineries (or should I say wine tasting and "wine events") in Napa as as farce - as pure political theater. If you haven't seen the article please look for it and read it carefully. It affects all of us.

Although it should come as no surprise to those citizens who take an interest in local government activities, the County Planning Commission rolled over in a most clumsy way to approve the application of Yountville Hill Winery to build a winery on Yountville Hill, a prominent hill in the middle of the county. Mr. Hocker's observations about how the Planning Commission does its business represent a very important recitation of the kind of "work" which is done by some of our elected and appointed officials. You need to read his letter to be horrified (but not necessarily surprised).

One of the Commissioners, Matt Pope, after voicing his intention to deny the winery's request, decided, after what the Commission called a "comfort break", to fall on his sword" and reverse his position - thus resulting in a 3-1 vote to approve the request. Mr. Hocker accurately characterized Pope's change in position as a "clumsy act of political capitulation that called into question the very foundation of the public deliberative process". If you were at the meeting it was enough to make you sick.

Unfortunately, this is merely yet another example of the County officials' prevailing determinations to corrupt Napa's Ag Preserve in favor of tourism, traffic problems and water shortages and debase citizen involvement in important decisions affecting Napa Valley and the people who live here.

A Political Theater

Bill Hocker - Jul 4, 2014 12:07PM  Share #255

[letter-to-the-editor response to Peter Jensen's "Yountville Hill winery wins narrow approval from planners" and published here]

A piece of political theater took place on the 3rd floor of the county building last Wednesday: a 5-hour tragedy presenting the unraveling of a decent politician, the debasement of a democratic process, and the potential loss of a another bit of the natural heritage of the the valley. The tourist attraction known as Yountville Hill Winery passed its first hurdle in the long process of becoming another piece of development blight littering the scenic hills and valley of the county. It passed only by dint of 11th hour back-room coercion worthy of Tammany Hall.

After a valiant and brilliant presentaion to preserve the hillside by the neophyte Yountville Hills Neighbors, supported by several responsible vintners in the valley, against a fast-talking developer supported by an entire development industry pimping the natural charms of the Napa Valley and a planning commission that rarely sees a development it can refuse, Commissioner Pope, normally eloquent about preservation before approving developments, let his angst get the better of him and proclaimed his intention to turn down the project. After 5 hours the 4 men of the planning commission, Commissioner Phillips having recused herself from this most important hearing, split 2-2 in their declared voting intentions, Commissioners Pope and Scott in opposition, Commissioners Basayne and Fiddaman in support. A tie meant a refusal and an automatic referral to the Board of Supes - all knew how much the Supes hate to make planning decisions. With their decisions clearly stated but the formal vote not yet taken, developer Sklar, against all protocol, jumped to the microphone to request a continuance, beginning an extended, excruciating search by Chair Fiddaman to find any possible way to delay or avoid the vote they should have already taken. After a gaggle of imperfect alternatives had been grasped at, stuttered over, debated and challenged, a solution finally presented itself: to the stunned silence of a room completely full of exhausted opponents aghast that this fumbling parody of parliamentary process Chair Fiddaman called for - a comfort break!

After the break there was little comfort to be found as Mr. Pope immediately declared his intention to change his mind, a clumsy act of political capitulation that called into question the very foundation of the public deliberative process. But with that, Chair Fiddaman left no second spared to finalize a 3-1 vote in support. We will now always want to know what happened to Mr. Pope during his comfort break.

There are two silver linings: One was that this project presented such an egregious example of the supremacy of toursim over agriculture that the wall of omerta toward tourism-wineries has finally been breached. Some of the most august names in the valley, Beth Novak Milliken, Ren Harris, Volker Eisele, Warren Winiarski, Dennis Groth, Thomas May, Christian Moueix, have returned for the latest battle to preserve the agrarian economy and landscape that has been their legacy to us all.

The second was that Commissioner Scott, in an atmosphere of extreme pressure, ending a 3 year climate of unconditional approval at the commission, had the courage to say no. The many as-yet-unbuilt tourism developments approved in the last 3 years combined with the many, many projects still on their way to the planning department, threaten the rural character and substance of the county. Those projects and the tourism infrastructure they require will eventually overwhelm the business of agriculture, and the vines will slowly disappear. One of our representatives had to be the first to say no, and for that we say thank you.

Yountville Hill will, no doubt, still end up in front of the Board of Supervisors, and we will be there. But right now we look anxiously to the Raymond Winery Expansion coming up at the next planning commission meeting. It should also be good theater, with as much drama and maybe as much farce but hopefully less tragedy. Please join us.

Letter-to-the-editor response from Lester Hardy is here.

Yountville Hill Goes to Planning Commission

SCR Admin - Jun 27, 2014 5:36PM  Share #249



JULY 2nd 9:00 AM

NAPA, CA 94559



Yountville Hill Hearing Announcment

Bill Hocker - Jun 27, 2014 4:36PM  Share #248

[email received front he Yountville Hill group on Jun 27th]



JULY 2nd 9:00 AM

NAPA, CA 94559



PC Letter Opposition to Yountville Hill

Bill Hocker - Jun 27, 2014 3:47PM  Share #246

[letter sent to the Planning Commission in opposition to the Yountville Hill project on June 27th]

Mr. McDowell and Commissioners,

My name is Bill Hocker and I am a resident of 3460 Soda Canyon Road. I am writing to request that you deny the use permit for the Yountville Hill Winery.

As the owner of a property adjacent to another proposed tourism-winery I have become aware of the concerns of other communities facing similar projects and of the cumulative impacts that these projects may pose to the rural environment that is the reason we, grower, vintner and resident alike are here.

Commissioner Pope at the joint BOS/ Planning Commission meeting on May 20th well summarized the situation that the county now faces in the winery approvals granted in the last couple of years and in the many dozens more of these projects currently making their way toward the planning department. He asked: “Do we want to maintain an agricultural economy that benefits from tourism, or do we want to transfer into a tourism economy that capitalizes on agriculture?”

That question is especially germane to the Yountville Hill project.

As a winery, this project, like most of those recently approved or proposed, is unnecessary. Currently there is almost 4 times more permitted capacity in Napa County now than is necessary to process Napa grapes. Permitted capacity between 2007 and 2013 alone - as noted in a planning department staff report in 2013 - increased by 7 million gallons, while crop reports for the same period show that only about 1200 more acres had been added to production, enough for 1 million gallons of 75% napa wine. Each new winery, including this one, must take grapes from an existing winery in the county, the increased competition and cost for grapes reducing profitability and forcing vintners to seek profits in tourism rather than winemaking.

As a tourist venue, located in a highly prominent location, unavoidable on Hwy. 29, the tunnels this project will drill into the hillside should become a goldmine. It will be a significant landmark of the emerging tourism landscape. That is the real reason why it and its 65,000 tourist slots/yr are before you.

At a cost, of course. The hillside that its parking lots will gash and that its box will dominate is the face of an unspoiled island in a sea of vines at the heart of the valley, which would be better used for the public enjoyment of future generations than sacrificed to private profiteering in the here and now. No doubt, more developers will want to take advantage of the prominent locations on adjacent lots. Add that loss to all the requested variances, the size of the project on such a small parcel, the steepness of the site, the visual impacts, the vast amounts of earth moved and spoils created, the shortage of parking and traffic congestion created and it is clear that this project should not be in this place.

It is, in fact, time to put the brakes on the many such tourist attractions in the development pipeline until the County can come to grips with the decisions already committed to, and until a long-term strategy is put in place to deal with future tourism that doesn’t involve the consumption of agricultural land, the defacing of the landscape, the increased clogging of roads, the ever increasing pressure for more development. That pressure to transfer to a tourism economy coming from investors, developers, financiers, real estate agents, contractors, consultants, tourism operators, gains strength with each new approval. Almost every recent project has spurred that transfer - over 500,000 new tourist slots approved in the last 2 years alone.

It should be clear that the cumulative impact of these as yet un-built tourist facilities are at odds with the intent of maintaining the agricultural character and substance of the ag preserve. Contrary to the WDO, tourism is not agriculture. If profitability is the measure, small-scale agriculture cannot compete, and it was to counter the pernicious effects of maximized profits that the ag preserve was created. Yet with each economic downturn, agriculture is redefined to the developers’ advantage. The developers now turn vineyards into wine-themed tourist attractions. A tourism economy will increasingly turn the vineyards into resorts and hotels and restaurants, and then into housing and malls for the tourism work force. And then it will turn the vineyards into anything other than agriculture because there is too little rural land left to care about. There will, of course, still be vines adorning the driveways and parking lots.

From the 1990 WDO:
    The interspersing of non-agricultural structures and activities throughout agricultural areas in excess of what already exists will result in a significant increase in the problems and costs of maintaining vineyards and discourage the continued use of the land for agricultural purposes.

Tourism is not the savior of agriculture, it is an existential threat.

You are the current stewards of a rural environment that exists now only because of a previous generation’s commitment to resist development pressure. Your decisions will determine whether the Napa Valley a generation hence will look more like it does now or more like Silicone Valley. I would urge you to consider Commissioner Pope’s question - and to weigh this project carefully - before you tell us what you see as the future of Napa County.

Thank You.

Yourntville Hill

- Jun 26, 2014 10:44PM   Edit  |    Share #245

I thought you might appreciate this [on the Faustian bargain of tourism].


Yountville Hill

- Jun 23, 2014 9:12AM   Edit  |    Share #241

Hello Glenn,

I just received this and thought you might be interested. Please forward it on.


From: Yountville Hill Neighbors [mailto:rjh=paradigmwinery.com@mail8.atl111.rsgsv.net] On Behalf Of Yountville Hill Neighbors
Sent: Friday, June 20, 2014 4:05 PM
To: Tod Mostero
Subject: Yountville Hill Winery's Impact on Napa Valley

Dear Fellow Napa Valley Vintners,

Eric Sklar recently sent out an email inviting your support for the proposed Yountville Hill Winery. We are writing to be sure you understand exactly what this project entails and how it would impact not only the immediate Yountville Hills area but the Napa Valley as a whole.

In brief:
    The 100,000 gallon winery project is located on a steep, 10.9-acre parcel, in full view of an extremely busy part of Highway 29, just across from Mustards restaurant.

    The mostly vertical site requires an exception to the County conservation regulations for construction on steep slopes; a variance from the County viewshed ordinance for the location of the visitors' center; and a variance for a reduced setback from Hwy 29 for the cave entry and winery delivery portal.

    When completed, the project site would include just 2.5 acres of grapes.

    The new road requires extensive cut and fill and must be supported by massive retaining walls that wind up to the reception and visitor centers at the middle and top of the hill.

    37 parking spaces are planned, 19 of which would be used by staff; delivery trucks, caterers, shuttle buses, limos, and visitor cars will share the remaining spaces; at peak times, visitors must be shuttled from Ashe Vineyards due to the lack of parking spaces at the project site.

    The extremely aggressive marketing plan requests nearly 65,000 visitors a year for daily appointments and special events -- this means tens of thousands of additional cars in this already heavily congested area of Hwy 29.

    The hillside will be topped by a 12,800+ sq ft cantilevered, glass and concrete visitors' center, which will be very visible, especially when lit up at night. The proposed visitors' center is three times the size of the Castle in the Clouds Inn currently on the site.

    The 1,200 sq ft reception building located half-way up the hill must be supported by a 16 ft. retaining wall below, 9 ft additional benching and topped by another 28 ft retaining wall above making this area of construction the equivalent height of a 5-story building (see attached grading plan).

    1.2 million gallons of wastewater will be handled by a package plant draining onto 2.5 acres of the only flat land on the property, which is traversed by a tributary of the Napa River.

This project pushes hard against the guiding principles of the Ag Preserve and has raised concerns County-wide over the interpretation and application of the WDO. We ask that you carefully consider its far-reaching impacts before endorsing the project. In fact, we believe the Napa County Planning Commission should deny all of the requested variances. More than 400 people have signed a petition to that effect so far.

For more information, visit www.yountville-hill-neighbors.org, where you will find links to the application and a comprehensive list of the impacts of the project. If you too are concerned about the implications of this project, we urge you to contact Sean Trippi, lead Planner for the County, or members of the Planning Commission. The project is scheduled to come before the Planning Commission on July 2.

Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Ren Harrris, Paradigm Winery
Dennis Groth, Groth Vineyards and Winery
Dirk Hampson, Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel
Christian Moueix, Dominus Estate

SIgn the Yountville Hill Petition

Mary Ann Moffitt - May 6, 2014 2:49PM  Share #167

[letter sent to the Yountville Hill Community and to Glenn]

Hello everyone,

Just touching base to let you know what is happening with regard to the YHW project. We continue to work on analyzing traffic impacts, viewshed and wastewater disposal issues, etc., in preparation for the June 18 Planning Commission hearing. A second front page article in the April 24 issue of the Yountville Sun talked about growing opposition to the project as proposed and several letters to the editor have been published. Bill Hocker of Napa wrote an excellent one. More letters are needed to keep this project in front of the public before the next Planning Commission meeting.

As you probably know, we are circulating a petition asking the County not to grant any exemptions or variances to the project and that the developers be required to follow the same rules and regulations that everyone else in the County is held to. A website is up and running that provides information on the project and the ability to sign the petition electronically: http://www.yountville-hill-neighbors.org/. We encourage you to forward the link to anyone you think might be interested in signing the petition. We have more than 200 hardcopy & electronic signatures so far our goal is 500 by the June 18 Planning Commission meeting. We are not limiting the petition to neighbors of the project. Any resident of Napa County, whether they are in unincorporated areas or the cities of Yountville, Napa, St. Helena & Calistoga should be concerned about the precedents this project will set, so please forward it to as many people as possible!

Two other important items of interest:
- There will be another candidates' forum at 5:30 tomorrow, Monday, May 5, at the Rutherford Grange, featuring District 3 Supervisory candidates Diane Dillon and Lewis Chilten. We hope they will discuss (again) this project by name and where they stand on its impact on the County's Ag Preserve and the Winery Definition Ordinance.

- The Planning Commission will discuss the 300' notification radius for projects in rural unincorporated areas at its Wednesday, May 5, meeting. Here is a link to the agenda. The YHW is a prime example of why the current 300' distance is not adequate to notify neighbors about projects that will have significant impacts on the areas in which they are proposed. It would be great to attend if you possibly can and show there is both an interest in and a need for expanding the notification radius.

I'll pass along any additional information that comes from either Eric Sklar or County staff. But don't forget the neighbors' meeting at Dominus Estate at 10 a.m. on Monday, June 9, to discuss our overall strategy for addressing the Planning Commission on the 18th. I'll send out another reminder closer to the date.

NVR Letter-to-the-Editor 5/1/14

Bill Hocker - Apr 30, 2014 11:23AM  Share #151

[published in the Napa ValleyRegister on 5/1/14]

I am writing in response to your article "Planned Yountville Hill Winery Draws Protest" on Apr 13th 2014

Faced with another ego-driven tourist attraction masquerading as agriculture, is it any wonder that the actual residents of the Valley might be upset. It is time to recognize that the WDO of 2010 got it wrong. Tourism is not agriculture. It is tourism. And its ultimate impact will be to turn, and in many places has already turned, the valley into a parody of agriculture in which caves and vine rows are merely backdrops for the real business of the valley: "wine pairings and marketing events".

At present the winery capacity in the valley has exceeded or is very close to exceeding, the availability of Napa grapes, hence the increasing demand by vintners to drop the 75% rule. The incredible vineyard expansion in the hills over the last 20 years means undeveloped land available for vineyards is becoming nonexistent . But the number of wineries being proposed is increasing exponentially as the new super-rich that have benefitted from the latest uptick in the economy look for "a winery of their own" to show off.

The Agricultural preserve of 1968 has been a historic success in maintaining small-scale agriculture in the modern world. The Napa farmers and vintners, whose livelihood is in the making of wine, have been able to prosper and maintain this beautiful agricultural paradise for the last 40 years in the face of enormous pressure to pave over the vines with development. Tourism has been a part of that success, to be sure, but once tourism becomes the principal economic activity of the valley, and the incentive is to pave over the vines to put in a new winery to attract tourist dollars, it is the beginning of the end. Following the French and Persian Palaces, the Tuscan Castles, Aerial trams and Planet Hollywood wannabes, the conference centers, grand hotels and roller coasters will come. The vine rows on the postcards will be beautiful.

It is time to look again at tourism and visualize its cumulative effect on the Valley in the years to come. The unfortunate 2010 adjustment to the WDO occurred during the backdrop of recessionary times. Recessions are generally short periods and not good times to make long term decisions. The Yountville Hill project should be stopped along with all the other vanity winery projects in the pipeline until the County can come to grips with the changes in character to the Valley that these projects pose.

Yountville Sun Letter-to-the-Editor 4/30/14

Bill Hocker - Apr 30, 2014 11:18AM  Share #150

[sent to the Sun (and accepted!) on 4/30/14]

This is a letter to the editor regarding this week's article about "Opposition to Yountville Hill Winery Proposal Growing"

At what point will we begin to recognize the havoc caused by the WDO in its attempt to equate tourism with agriculture. The two have always been mutually exclusive and tourism will eventually, at best, allow only a parody of a wine based economy - just enough so the tourists will continue to come. A parking lot or a winery is infinitely more profitable than the area of vines they replace and each new winery project nibbles away the area in the County devoted to real agriculture.

The loss of vines on the valley floor to the monuments of self aggrandizement we call wineries have so far been made up by the conversion of watershed to vineyards in the hills by other self aggrandizers. But raw land available for vines in the County is quickly diminishing at the same time the number of wealthy individuals seeking a winery of their own, a trend the County seems quite happy to encourage, is increasing dramatically.

Winery capacity has already exceeded the grapes available - the vintners are grousing at the 75% rule. Once that standard is dropped, as it must be as ego-tourism becomes economic engine of the County, the decline will be rapid. More and more Yountville lightbulbs will pop up to spoil the vistas across the valley and clog its highways.

It is past time for the Supervisors to put a moratorium on the numerous 100,000 gal/yr wineries in the pipeline and begin looking at the long term impacts of unlimited venues for "wine pairings" and "marketing events". They are placing both the agricultural economy and the agricultural beauty of the County in jeopardy, already close IMHO, to a point of no return.

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