Amber Manfree | Feb 23, 2015
[Letter sent to Napa County planner Suzie Gambill
I am writing on behalf of myself and my family to oppose approval of The Caves at Soda Canyon / Napa Custom Crush ("The Caves") Very Minor Modification Permit Application #P14-00288 which requests permission for an already built 4th portal to their caves at 2275 Soda Canyon Road.
This construction which The Caves is now requesting a permit for was, in fact, completed years ago. The 4th portal was not in the original permit application or shown on their plans submitted with that application. The cave was drilled all the way through the side of the ridge without a permit, and its only purpose is to provide a sweeping view for tourists.
In addition to the environmental and viewshed impacts of this construction, which I find objectionable on their own merits, retroactively permitting construction projects that would likely have been denied at the initial time of permitting sends an absolutely backwards message to land owners and contractors; that, if you have enough money to build, you can go ahead and do whatever you like and, instead of being fined and/or forced to reverse or mitigate for unpermitted construction, one can simply push a permit through Napa County's channels at a later date. This makes a mockery of the permit process and is not an acceptable practice for County employees charged with stewarding the Valley on the public's behalf.
The Caves should be fined for their flagrant disregard of Napa County's regulations and required to perform appropriate mitigation for the disruption they have caused to the environment, including visual and material degradation of the site.
Anything less indicates to other would-be developers that "anything goes" and the Valley can be trampled regardless of well-intentioned and hard-fought public policies. It also sends the public the message that the policies enacted directly by voters and through the representative process are meaningless in practice. This is sure to create ill-will and tension between neighbors; exactly the kind of problem that governments are supposed to prevent.
For the reasons stated above, the right course of action is to protect Napa's environment and hold the applicant to their original approved permit.
Thank you for taking the time to consider our comments,
Bill Hocker adds:
Protest letters may still be sent through March.
The modification notice is here
The modification drawings are here
The letter should be sent to Napa County Planner Suzie Gambill