Lisa Hirayama | May 5, 2015
Dear Ms. Gardner-Gambill & Mr. McDowell,
We are writing to ask you to deny the Use Permit Minor Modification P14-00288. Given all the information that has been gathered from witnesses, neighbors and even a written article from 4/17/14 in “Wine Country This Week”, it appears that the applicant had every intention of developing a cave portal and deck from the very beginning without the necessary plans and permits. The applicant stated that “Napa County fire officials wanted another cave entrance and exit for safety reasons” (Napa Register 4/3/15), but the Fire Dept said “these improvements were not necessary to in order to comply with Fire Dept standards” (NCPC Board Agenda Letter for 5/6/15 meeting). It seems that someone is being untruthful as to the needed safety issue. How did a ventilation shaft turn into a portal with a concrete apron and added outdoor tasting area? It would appear that the builders need a remedial class on how to read blueprints.
The applicant stated that tastings/visitations ceased in May 2014, but evidence points to tastings having continued unabated in the unauthorized areas through at least December 2014, and possibly longer. Was there any punishment for such flagrant transgressions? Apparently not, which conforms to the findings of a random audit that revealed almost half of all Napa wineries did not comply with their use permit in 2013.
There appears to be an unofficial rule of “It is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission” when it comes to winery/vineyard development. And it does appear to be true when the Planning Department and Commission try to legalize permit violations whenever they become an issue. This is one of those flagrant violations that a Commissioner was willing to approve, and he stated that “It’s not impacting anybody and it’s essential to their business model at this present time.” If it was so essential, why didn’t the applicant apply for it in the original plans?
Besides denying this modification permit, we believe that the portal and 700 square foot tasting area should be removed. It was never in the use permit plans, therefore, this will return the winery back to it’s original proposal. Please do not reward the applicants for ignoring the planning process. The applicant should be punished where they will feel it the most—in their pocketbook.
We also respectfully ask that you forward our email to all the Planning Commissioners.
Thank you for your consideration in this matter.