Bill Hocker | Aug 21, 2021Update 9/14/21
NVR 9/14/21: Napa County explores limiting agricultural preserve McMansions
The County is requesting comments on a proposed Draft Residential Development Ordinance. Contact John McDowell
Proposed Zoning Ammendments
Illustrative Development Examples
The proposed ordinance is a step in the right direction to limit the ongoing development of mega-mansions by the wealthy who want a piece of this most desirable tourist destination. But like most new ordinances proposed to slow the county's urbanization it is far too late. The mansions already cap the ridges of the valley and fill in the most desirable farmland on the valley floor. Just 1 year ago the county approved a mega-mansion that will decimate one of the few iconic forested knolls
at the center of the valley. The requests for viewshed exemptions are approved by the Zoning Administrator
almost every month.
One of the examples presented by the county (above) does show that, while mansions are an issue, the real development hog on agricultural land is the accomodation of tourism at wineries. This winery illustrates just how much land can be taken up by the parking lot, tasting room, and presentation landscaping for a tourist facility, well above the 1 acre proposed for residential development. (This one may even exceed the 25% of the property allowed under the WDO.) And unlike the residence, the tourist facility creates a much greater need for additional urban development to accomodate the numbers of people that will use it. There is even the doubt that the winery would have been built at all, with the loss of the vineyard land of its entire development area, were it not for its tourism potential.
In a county that wishes to preserve its agricultural land, McMansion development should be regulated. (It should also follow the same setbacks from public roads that wineries must follow). But let's not forget that the real consumption of vineyard land is being done to accomodate a tourism-based economy with unnecessary winery development. Until a return to an agriculture-based economy occurs, mansion development on vineyard land will remain a subordinant cause of vineyard loss.
NVR 11/1/18: Napa County sees McMansions as farmland threat
BOS Agenda 10/30/18
"Director of Planning, Building, and Environmental Services requests discussion and direction regarding commencing potential zoning ordinance changes to the Viewshed Protection Program and limiting total development area for residential development within agricultural zoning districts."
The agenda letter for this item at the Oct 30 2018 BOS meeting is here
It has always seemed a paradox to me that an enormous number of zoning restrictions are placed on wineries, including development area allowed, setbacks from roads, need to "convey their permanence and attractiveness", and above all a highly public approval process to insure that wineries are in harmony with maintaining a beautiful and agrarian landscape. Houses on the other hand, seem exempt from those considerations - except for a viewshed ordinance that doesn't seem to have prevented the county's most prominent ridgelines from being encrusted with buildings. It is as if, because houses are a "by-right" use, that their negative impacts on the environment are also granted by-right.
The photo shows a house currently being constructed in a very obvious location on the Trail near the Soda Canyon junction. The setback is about 200' rather than the 600' required for a winery. The building's design, of very un-"napaesque" boxes, screens off the farmlands and ridges from view and a bit more of the county's rural landscape has been urbanized. A public vetting of the design, and an ordinance intended to moderate the visual impact of a residence in the landscape and its occupation of Napa's precious arable land would definitely be a welcome addition to the County's land use arsenal.