Bill Hocker | May 28, 2015
NVR article: Parcel size for new wineries stymies committee
The unsubmitted Protect Rural Napa position statement is here
After four meetings the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee is possibly beginning to see that just tweaking metrics in the WDO may not be so easy. The three items to be discussed, no-vineyard-loss requirement, estate grape requirement, minimum property size for a winery, were resolved by the staff into 5 options (with a sixth catch-all option to contain future discussion items - which were the most important items) The Board Agenda Letter with those options is here
The no-vineyard-loss requirement was discussed first and taken out of contention for further discussion (4 for, 13 against). Some pointed out that a loss, though small, is permanent. Ted Hall pointed out the inverted results that might cause acreage to be taken out of production and be held for future development. (I, of course, would not have used the term "loss of vineyards" but "loss of arable land".)
Next was the estate grape requirement which was defeated (6 for, 11 against) but not by the 2/3 supermajoritey necessary to make it a 'committee recommendation'. Again Mr. Hall pointed the inverse results from a requirement that would de-emphasize growers in favor of on-site wine production increasing the construction of wineries.
Three options delt with parcel size: 10 acre minimum to remain (11 for, 6 against) ; 40 acre minimum possibly including some restrictions on parcels between 10 and 40 acres (8 for, 9 against) ; 10 acre minimum with substantial restrictions between 10 and 40 acres. (11 for, 6 against). Some felt this to be a non-decision because no supermajority was reached. But I sensed that some distinction might ultimately be recommended between the treatment of 40+ parcels and 10-40 parcels.
By the end of the parcel-size discussion several people had posed the idea that what happened on the parcel might be more important than the parcel size. At the end of this meeting when Director Morrison reminded everyone that the next meeting should deal with variances, there was a sense that this discussion had raised issues that needed to be discussed first: what non-agricultural uses (meaning the wineries and accessory uses that are currently defined as agriculture in the General Plan) are appropriate for the AP/AW zones - the same discussion that led to the 1990 WDO
. It is that general discussion that needs to happen again in light of the evident success but also of the recognized but unmitigated impacts of the approach taken 25 years ago, impacts that are now changing the quality of life in Napa County.
It is inevitable that the committee will eventually stumble into the real issues driving the desire to build more wineries despite the fact that there is little need for more winery capacity in the county to process Napa grapes. Those issues are the increased profitability of tourism at wineries, the expression of wealth that a tourism winery allows and the increased profitability of grape source shifting at pre-WDO wineries. Are these appropriate reasons to build unnecessary production facilities on irreplaceable AP and AW lands?
As was also noted by Director Morison, the development impacts that have given rise to these meetings will not be solved by winery limitations - they will require a broader conversation with the municipalities, and we are still waiting for those meetings to begin. The winery proliferation is just one facet of that development but one has to start somewhere. Stay tuned.