Watson Lane American Canyon

Properties along Watson Lane, located just outside city limits, may be annexed by American Canyon.

Noel Brinkerhoff, Eagle

The city of American Canyon is planning to annex lands just north of where Watson Ranch would be built in order to help create a key road for the project’s success.

Members of the City Council have said their support for Watson Ranch is linked to extending Newell Drive so it could connect to Highway 29 and help carry the thousands of cars generated by new residential and commercial development.

“I see this as a great opportunity to facilitate that road segment that is essential to moving forward with just about anything we want to do,” said Councilmember Mark Joseph on Sept. 5.

The proposed route of the Newell Drive extension would take it northwest through unincorporated lands known as the Paoli and Gonsalves properties.

The council indicated on Sept. 5 that the city should begin taking steps to annex these lands, as well as two other properties located just south of them.

The other two properties — one encompassing Watson Lane and another belonging to Union Pacific Railroad — would be annexed to avoid their becoming unincorporated “islands” as a result of annexing Paoli and Gonsalves.

Community Development Director Brent Cooper said the Paoli property is largely vacant except for a farmhouse.

He added that it could have “great vehicle access” if the Newell Drive extension is built, and would be visible from the highway.

“It has a lot of opportunity for a wide range of non-residential development,” said Cooper, “whether it is industrial, commercial, [or] hospitality.”

Joseph also indicated that the Paoli as well as Gonsalves properties might be turned into commercial or hospitality use, and developers behind such projects could help support infrastructure changes related to extending Newell Drive.

As for the Watson Lane properties, those owners have signaled to the city that they prefer their area remain largely rural residential, according to Cooper.

Further development of Watson Lane would be encumbered by the fact that it lies within the boundaries of the Napa Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan’s Zone D, over which planes fly.

Because of this condition, Napa County has long restricted development along Watson Lane to renovating homes or building new ones on existing parcels. It has prohibited new subdivisions in this area.

Councilmembers said they were inclined to continue this limit on development, as local property owners prefer.

No owners expressed opposition to the annexation plans at the Sept. 5 council meeting. Some said they welcomed it.

Charles Lemmon, who has lived on Watson Lane for about 10 years, said he was “excited” about the change because it would provide him with “some clarity” on what to do with his property.

Les Lawson, who owns property on Watson Lane and other areas of American Canyon, said, “I’m in favor of this whole thing. I think it’s great.”

Newell Drive currently terminates just east of the Vintage Ranch subdivision. The developer for Watson Ranch has agreed to finance one new segment of Newell Drive that would extended it to the northern edge of the new development.

But taking the road beyond Watson Ranch and connecting it to Highway 29 has been challenging for the city. This segment would require crossing the Union Pacific railroad tracks, as well as paving miles of new road.

The cost of this second segment of Newell Drive is likely to run into the millions or tens of millions of dollars—-an expense the city alone can’t bear, according to officials.

The city is trying to gain support from Napa County and other government sources to help finance this segment. If it is unable to get the funding for this road project, the City Council may have a difficult time approving Watson Ranch without this outlet for the traffic it will produce.

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