Geoff Ellsworth | Sep 2, 2016
[statement made during the 8/17/16 PC hearing
on Frog's Leap U-P mod.]
This is very tough because obviously Frogís Leap does many good things with organic farming, dry farming, charitable events. Itís the kind of winery that is a true part of the community, Itís a winery that I can say I would be proud of being part of Napa Valley.
But we havenít really addressed the impacts on rural areas of someone doing all these types of events. The problem is cumulative impacts: not that one winery is pushing more visitation and events, but that hundreds are, with more continued approvals and proposals in the works. You know, we have two two-lane roads that feed the up valley. At what point do tourism impacts fatally disrupt our ag preserve and the quality of life of the residents who really are the true treasure of the Napa Valley - because the residents keep the ag preserve in place. So I think we have to make sure that the people that live here are happy with the balance.
My concerns are that we need to have an established compliance program in place before we continue approving any new projects or modifications. If, instead of a true compliance program, we continue after-the-fact approvals, we bypass addressing the impacts of the overages, and Iím talking about many, many wineries. And we bypass the CEQA mitigations of the original approvals, creating cumulative impacts that lose any true baseline for where we are. And much of this has to do with visitation. The rules are in place not to be a hinderence to someoneís sucess but, rather, as protection for the more vulnerable within our environment and community. The reason we want to follow the rules is not because of some abstraction or disconnected reason, but because by staying within them we stay in balance with our community and environment.
So the idea of a proper enforcement/compliance program is not about punishment. Itís about balance. If we donít stay in balance our little boat will tip over. And it is a little boat here.
I believe such a compliance/enforcement mechanism must include production and visitation levels on projects such as this, including water use and adherence to WDO food and hospitality stipulations.
I believe it also must address and include transportion issues, such as bicycle use, tourbus use and levels of alcohol consumption for people leaving a property. The entire system must be included if we are to understand the impacts. Until such a compliance/enforcement program is in place, I urge the planning commission not to approve any new projects or modifications because itís a question of how we balance the whole system.