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Blakeley Construction demolition of its Calistoga offices (copy)

Dick Blakeley watches in March as his construction crew demolishes his construction office on his family’s property outside Calistoga. Supervisor Diane Dillon is suggesting that Napa County put a measure on the November ballot that would allow Blakeley to continue operating on agriculturally zoned land. As things now stand, Blakeley would have to move its construction business within two years.

Voters this November may decide whether Blakeley Construction can stay on its rural property near Calistoga after 54 years of being in business there.

Supervisor Diane Dillon said the Board of Supervisors could place a Blakeley-related Measure P initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot. A voter-passed initiative would trump county orders that Blakeley Construction cease commercial operations on the agriculturally zoned property by July 2018.

“The only way to legitimize their business is to go to the ballot,” Dillon said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

Her peers on the Board of Supervisors couldn’t react to her proposal on Tuesday because the item wasn’t on the agenda. All they could do was agree that the proposal should be on a future agenda.

Supervisors will discuss the matter at their July 12 meeting. They must act by Aug. 12 to meet the deadline for placing a measure on the November ballot.

Dick and Kelly Blakeley run the business that has 13 employees, including themselves. To win a Measure P vote, they would have to garner support not only in the Calistoga area, but from throughout Napa County – especially from the population centers of Napa and American Canyon.

Kelly Blakeley said Wednesday she thinks a Measure P vote on Blakeley Construction could win.

“We’re more than just a construction company,” she said. “We’ve been there for our communities. We’ve helped build a lot of these agricultural communities. We’ve been involved with I don’t know how many wineries.”

Blakeley Construction opened in 1962 at 310 Franz Valley School Road northwest of Calistoga. But the land in 1955 had been zoned for agriculture by Napa County under the very first county zoning law.

That means the business faced a ticking regulatory time bomb over its entire existence. The time bomb went off last year when a neighbor brought the matter to the county’s attention.

Napa County code enforcement concluded that having a commercial business on agriculturally zoned land violated the county’s zoning ordinance. The county gave the Blakeleys two-and-half years to remove the business.

In addition, the county found that business-related buildings didn’t have building permits. Blakeley Construction tore down its office in March and is using a temporary office.

Since 1990, Measure P and its predecessor, Measure J, have barred the Board of Supervisors from changing land zoned for agriculture to another land use, giving that power to voters. That is part of Napa County land-use protections to keep farmland from being paved over.

Only voters can grant permission for Blakeley Construction to remain on the Franz Valley School Road property. Kelly Blakeley said the company has failed to find an appropriate, commercially zoned site within Napa County.

The idea of a Measure P vote in the Blakeley case emerged at a Calistoga community forum last week attended by about 40 people, including Dillon and Supervisor Keith Caldwell. At that point, the idea was that the Blakeleys would collect the necessary 3,700 or so valid signatures to qualify a ballot measure.

But the Blakeleys can’t launch a petition drive in time for the November election.

Dillon’s thinking had evolved by Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. If the Board of Supervisors places the matter on the ballot, no signature drive is needed and the November election becomes a possibility.

Dillon proposes a Measure P vote that would allow businesses established before 1969 in the agricultural watershed to remain. She chose 1969 as the cutoff date because that is when the county passed its first preliminary general plan.

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“I haven’t done an assessment, but I doubt it applies to many businesses,” Dillon said.

Caldwell said he’d like to find out if such a measure would affect more businesses than the Blakeley’s.

Dillon noted the Board of Supervisors in 2012 placed a Measure P initiative on the ballot to allow the Chardonnay Golf Club restaurant – which is on agriculturally zoned land—to serve the general public as well as golfers. The measure passed.

Napa County voters have decided land use decisions 15 times since 1990 under Measure P and its predecessor, Measure J. They passed seven of the initiatives and rejected eight.

Among the winners were allowing outdoor dining at Don Giovanni’s restaurant, allowing a Stanly Lane Pumpkin Patch produce stand and allowing farm labor camps on agricultural land.

The losers included proposed Napa Sea Ranch improvements along the Napa River in the Carneros area, an Aetna Springs resort measure and a proposal to build a subdivision in the hills southeast of Napa.

The last Measure P vote was the successful Chardonnay Golf Club restaurant measure in 2012.

Anne Ward Ernst, editor of The Weekly Calistogan, contributed to this story.


Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He was worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield. He is a graduate of UC Sa