Measure C supporters who objected to proposed voter guide arguments against their watershed and oak woodland protection initiative reached a legal settlement with opponents over revisions.
Supporter and local resident Yeoryios Apallas last week filed a lawsuit in Napa County Superior Court calling parts of the original opposition arguments “false and/or misleading.” The voter guide will be mailed by the county to voters for the June 5 election.
Under the settlement, several statements in argument and rebuttal submitted for the voter guide by opponents will be revised.
“I believe justice has been served and that the voters will see the shenanigans that have been going on behind the scenes,” Measure C co-author Mike Hackett said Friday. “Now they’re going to get a fair representation that’s been mandated by the court.”
Ryan Klobas of the Napa County Farm Bureau on behalf of Measure C opponents said the settlement is not an admission of making false and misleading statements.
“I think it’s important to realize that all of the arguments we intended to keep, we have kept,” he said.
Measure C would limit the cutting of oak woodlands to make room for new vineyards in the agricultural watershed zoning district that includes local hills. It would strengthen setbacks for streams.
The original opposition argument asked voters to “join Napa County Farm Bureau, Napa Valley Vintners, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Winegrowers of Napa County, along with Coalition Napa Valley, Sustainable Napa County, Senator Bill Dodd, Napa County Supervisors and Mayors in Napa County, who all oppose Measure C.”
Measure C supporters said the line implied that every mayor and supervisor opposes the initiative. In fact, St. Helena Mayor Alan Galbraith supports it and Supervisors Diane Dillon and Brad Wagenknecht are neutral.
The new version lists the opposition as including Supervisors Ryan Gregory, Alfredo Pedroza and Belia Ramos and Napa Mayor Jill Techel, Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning, Yountville Mayor John Dunbar and American Canyon Mayor Leon Garcia.
“Our intention was never to say ‘every supervisor and every mayor,’ but they interpreted it that way,” Klobas said.
The original opposition argument said that “Measure C will outlaw future farming in the Ag Watershed and encourage other types of development, while still allowing 795 acres of oak woodlands to be removed – opening the door for event centers and more luxury homes to be developed across our agricultural watershed, destroying our viewsheds and hillsides; and increasing traffic on our already congested rural roads and Highway 29.”
The new version replaces “outlaw future farming ” with “restrict future farming.”
However, not every change sought by supporters has been made. The lawsuit by Apallas said Measure C will not “open the door to event centers” or “increase traffic.”
“To the contrary, Measure C will not authorize any additional event centers; such centers will continue to require discretionary approvals from the county in the same way both before and after Measure C,” the lawsuit said.
However, that language about event centers and traffic remains in the revised version of the Measure C opposition argument.
The original statement said that “Measure C will prevent homeowners from making even the smallest changes to their land.” The Apallas lawsuit contested this claim.
The revised statement instead says that “when the Oak Tree Removal Limit is reached, Measure C will prevent homeowners in the Ag Watershed from removing oak trees without a permit.”
No on Measure C will pay $54,000 to cover the attorney fees for Measure C supporters in the case. Klobas said fighting out the matter in court would have cost more.
“We were willing to settle this to move forward with the (opposition) campaign,” he said.
The lawsuit over the voter guide statements had to reach a conclusion in time for the county to print and mail out the guides when ballots come out. Registrar of Voters John Tuteur said this has happened.
Voters should receive both the ballot and the voter guide in the mail from May 7 to May 14, Tuteur said. The ballot and guide will be in separate mailings because of the thickness of the voter guide.