Steve Chilton | Jul 20, 2016
[letter sent to Deputy Planning Director McDowell]
July 19, 2016
RE: OPPOSING MOUNTAIN PEAK WINERY-USE PERMIT #P13-00320-UP
Dear Deputy Planning Director McDowell,
My name is Steve Chilton and I reside on Soda Canyon Road, Napa, CA 94558. My wife and I constructed our home on a small acreage that has been in her family for nearly 100 years. While designing the house we worked around the 100+ year old oaks and Soda Creek. No oaks were removed for the house nor was the creek impacted. We practice positive environmental stewardship and expect the County and others on the Road to do the same. I strongly oppose the Mountain Peak project and request that you deny or significantly reduce this use permit for the following reasons.
• The size and scope of the project dictates that an Environmental Impact Report following the requirements of CEQA is mandatory. A negative declaration for a project this large and with its concurrent impacts upon water quality and quantity, wildlife, traffic, public safety, noise and vegetation cannot be supported by the facts. That the proponents have decided to proceed with this environmental disclosure document is an affront to county staff and the public.
• The permit request is for 100,000 gallons, which would require ~700 tons of grapes to satisfy. The project parcel has only 28 acres of planted vines, producing a maximum of ~80 tons of grapes per year (a mere 11% required to produce 100,000 gallons!). The staff report states that the additional tonnage will come from owned or under contract acreages nearby. Unfortunately “nearby” is not defined and could be on Silverado Trail. The County needs to identify where the grapes will come from in order to properly review a valid traffic report.
• As the County is aware of, Soda Canyon Road is narrow, steep in places, wet and foggy at times on the steepest section and used extensively by bicyclists. Deer and other wildlife frequently cross the road, especially at night. A hoard of tasters, leaving the event center at 10:00 PM after one last toast, must navigate this dark, unforgiving road without hitting a deer, a tree or a resident. It is only a matter of time.
• Fire danger is always discussed and seems to be dismissed by the County every time a project like this comes up. The risk of a man-caused fire on Soda Canyon Road is great now and with this project will become much worse. Cal Fire has sent extensive resources to the Canyon when there has been an incident and we applaud their efforts. As each fire season begins and continues through the summer and fall, other fires in the state drain our local resources. Cal Fires’ ability to respond fully becomes more limited and the risk of a small car fire becoming an inescapable inferno becomes greater. Soda Canyon has a history of major fires. Because Soda Canyon Road is a dead-end road, there are significant public safety concerns with regard to fire, and all emergencies. There is essentially zero cell service on Soda Canyon Road, offering the potential of a small incident such as a vehicle accident, a tossed cigarette, or a jackknifed or otherwise stuck truck becoming a disaster that would impact the entire county.
• A routine tactic of developers and their consultants is to present a grossly over stated project and when confronted with opposition, to seemingly, reluctantly, reduce the project to 75 or even 50% of the initial proposal. I fully expect that to happen here, while keeping the visitor numbers high. Your planning department and planning director have seen this before and should not be fooled into believing this was not the proponents’ intent all along. The project in its present form and when reduced will still qualify for the CEQA requirement of an EIR because there are unmitigatable, significant impacts to transportation, public safety and water quality and quantity.
For all of the reasons above, among many others, the County must deny this project and reduce the size to one that fits the rural environment and road conditions. Please protect our community’s safety and preserve the quickly dwindling natural resources that Napa has left, particularly in the remote hillsides.