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Editor’s note: The St. Helena Star is a sister paper to The Weekly Calistogan. This editorial is relevant to Calistoga as Blakeley Construction is located outside Calistoga city limits, but with a Calistoga mailing address.

It takes more than a few clusters of well-tended grapes to make a bottle of Napa Valley wine.

Without the roads and bridges that connect wineries and vineyards with cities and shipping routes, it would be impossible to harvest those grapes, turn them into wine, bottle it, get it to market, and bring customers to the winery.

And without companies like Blakeley Construction, those roads and bridges wouldn’t exist. That’s why supporting Blakeley in its current struggle is perfectly aligned with our agricultural values.

The company and its supporters are trying to gather about 3,800 signatures to get an initiative on the June 2018 ballot that would allow it to stay on the Franz Valley School Road property outside Calistoga where it’s been operating since 1962.

The parcel was zoned ag, but the Blakeleys understood from the county that their excavation, grading and paving business had been grandfathered in. During the company’s 55 years there, county inspectors and code enforcement officers visited the property repeatedly and never said boo.

The county didn’t just tacitly tolerate Blakeley’s presence. It actively supported it, awarding the company public contracts and putting it on the county’s list of dependable contractors to call in an emergency whenever a road or bridge needs to be protected or patched up from a storm. County officials know from experience that if a road starts to wash out, even at 2 a.m., Blakeley will get somebody there in a hurry.

Wineries and private citizens have also hired Blakeley, earning the company a reputation for quality work and fair dealing.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that a neighboring property owner, who doesn’t live there full time, starting complaining that Blakeley was operating on an ag-zoned parcel. They had a point – technically if not practically – and the county told Blakeley to rebuild some unpermitted buildings and look for a new home by next June.

The company complied, paying $84,000 in county fines and fees and spending more than $100,000 to tear down and replace the buildings. They looked for another home in the area but, not surprisingly, couldn’t find anything suitable in their price range. The closest property they found was in Windsor, which would put half an hour’s worth of winding roads between them and their Napa County customer base.

Determined to stay on Franz Valley School Road, Kelly Blakeley said she’s been collecting signatures from Calistoga to American Canyon, and the response generally has been very positive. Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning and Upvalley Supervisor Diane Dillon are among the supporters.

That’s not surprising. Companies like Blakeley built and maintain the physical infrastructure upon which our economy thrives, so endorsing this initiative is a no-brainer.

If you value the Ag Preserve and the infrastructure and businesses that keep it viable, don’t let this local-serving company be forced out of the Napa Valley. And, if you’d like to sign the petition, we’ve seen those gathering signatures at the post office and outside of Smith’s Pharmacy in St. Helena, and outside the Calistoga Post Office. Or you can call Blakeley Construction, 942-4383.