The initial negotiations between the city of Napa and Napa County over the future of the Napa Pipe project have been positive, Supervisor Bill Dodd said Tuesday, although a substantial number of issues will have to be resolved before any agreement is reached.
The county and the city have set up a four-person committee — Dodd, Supervisor Keith Caldwell, Mayor Jill Techel and Councilwoman Juliana Inman — to broker a deal that would lead to the city providing services to residential development in exchange for sharing in project revenue.
Dodd said the group has met three times, but couldn’t say when — or if — a deal would be reached. In the next 30 days, Dodd said he hopes the talks will delve into more specific issues.
County Planning Director Hillary Gitelman said she expects staff with expertise on the project’s water and traffic impacts to become involved in the negotiations.
“I wouldn’t characterize any deal points,” Dodd said. “We have four people, at least from the electeds, that stand engaged. We recognize their concerns. They recognize our concerns. I think we will be in a place where we can talk specifics in the next 30 days.”
Dodd delivered his update at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon. The deadline for an agreement between the city and county is still set for May 14.
While Dodd spoke positively of the negotiations’ progress, a letter from City Manager Mike Parness indicates the two sides will have their work cut out for them in the next three months.
In the letter, sent to the county before the supervisors’ initial public hearing on Napa Pipe Jan. 13, the city asserted that the project’s environmental review was inadequate, incomplete and failed to meet the standards of the California Environmental Quality Act.
The county has denied that assertion, and argued that it has complied with CEQA. The Board of Supervisors voted to certify the project’s environmental impact report at the Jan. 13 meeting.
The board is considering General Plan and zoning amendment changes for the Napa Pipe site. If approved, those would be a crucial step in having a project of 700 to 945 homes plus a Costco store getting built.
A separate design and permitting process would follow. The city expressed concern that the General Plan and zoning amendments don’t offer enough assurance that the project the developers will build what they say they will build.
The city’s letter stated that without an agreement with the developers, the project could be sold to another developer who would use the site’s General Plan and zoning designations differently.
In order for the city to provide water to the project site, Parness wrote that it will have to have a development agreement between the county and Napa Redevelopment Partners, which is backing the project.
That agreement would be transferred to the city if the project is annexed, which would require voter approval from city residents. Because of this, Parness wrote that the city will have “a vital interest in the terms of any such development agreement.”
The Costco store, the letter stated, would set a “serious precedent” throughout Napa Valley because it would be a major retail outlet outside city limits, and the city questioned the county’s justification for allowing it.
The letter also warned that dry-year impacts to the city’s existing customers would be worsened if water were supplied to development at Napa Pipe.
Gitelman said Tuesday she needed more information about this issue; the developers had planned to use the groundwater beneath the site if the city were in a water pinch, but a majority of the supervisors said they would not support that.
On traffic, the city expressed concern about how the timeline for the project’s construction would coincide with mitigations needed to offset the increased traffic. Parness wrote that the county should consider having the improvements built instead of requiring the developers to pay a fee toward later traffic upgrades.
The letter stated that providing emergency services to the development could be an issue, and questioned if it would be a good site for a new fire station if the property were annexed.
The city also questioned whether the proposed housing would be cheap enough to be workforce housing, or if it would become vacation homes or second homes. The project plans call for having up to 20 percent be affordable, while the rest would be market-rate.
The city also questioned the project’s future if voters rejected annexation, as providing water and other services would need approval of the Napa County Local Agency Formation Commission and four-fifths of the City Council.
Supervisor Keith Caldwell said the city’s concerns were similar to those held by the county.
“In those very broad discussions, we have discovered that all of our concerns are almost identical,” Caldwell said. “They are almost equal.”
Dodd said the concerns aren’t new, and haven’t prevented city officials from negotiating in good faith.
“The city was there in good faith,” Dodd said. “It is positive. I think they’re at the table. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make something work. It’s really too early to tell.”