Napa council denies winery water hookup

Councilman Scott Sedgley fears "bigger impact"
2013-12-19T17:28:00Z 2013-12-24T10:00:43Z Napa council denies winery water hookupPETER JENSEN Napa Valley Register
December 19, 2013 5:28 pm  • 

The city of Napa won’t be providing a water hookup to an Upvalley winery on Rutherford Road after City Councilman Scott Sedgley balked at the request, saying it would create a bad precedent for growth management.

Elizabeth Spencer Winery asked to be connected to the city’s water system for fire suppression purposes. Its current hookup with the city of St. Helena doesn’t have enough capacity to provide the water flow needed for a sprinkler system.

The City Council debated the request for more than an hour Tuesday, before a vote needing four-fifths of the council failed. City Councilwoman Juliana Inman recused herself from voting, and a motion to allow the hookup failed 3-1, with Sedgley dissenting.

The City Council then voted to rescind that motion, allowing the current application to stay active, so Elizabeth Spencer won’t have to pay to submit a new request.

Elizabeth Spencer’s request could come back if Sedgley removed his opposition, Inman decided not to recuse herself, or the city’s water policies changed.

Sedgley feared a setting a precedent by granting the request, saying other wineries in the unincorporated could follow suit in hooking up to the city system to fulfill a county requirement that they install sprinkler systems.

“I see the city receiving more of these requests in the future,” Sedgley said. “Water is king. The industry is booming.”

City staff didn’t share Sedgley’s viewpoint, asserting that Elizabeth Spencer already sits on a city water main running from Lake Hennessey, the city’s main reservoir, into city limits.

Joy Eldredge, general manager of the city’s Water Department, said that the winery will continue to use St. Helena water for domestic use, and would only connect with Napa water in the event of a fire, or to test its sprinkler system.

Beaulieu Vineyard and Inglenook have done a similar thing in the past 15 years, as has the Gordon Huether Studio + Gallery on Monticello Road and a vineyard near Big Ranch Road and Trancas Street, Eldredge said.

She said the request largely satisfied city policy for extending water service outside city limits, but didn’t meet one requirement that the water service be for residential use, not commercial use. Extending the service was still up to the council’s discretion, she said.

Deputy Public Works Director Phil Brun said staff supported the request from Elizabeth Spencer, as it didn’t require new infrastructure to be built and wouldn’t use water unless it was an emergency.

“It’s much different than a bare piece of land requesting water for a new winery,” Brun said. “That is way up on the threshold. This is very low on the threshold.”

Co-founder Spencer Graham told the council that his company was willing to pay its fair share for the water, including a $13,620 connection fee and annual water bills of about $1,100.

“This is about water that we’ll hopefully never have to use,” Graham said. “We’re going to pay our fair share to tap into the main.”

City Manager Mike Parness acknowledged that city staff was preparing to discuss with the county the broader implications of wineries requesting city water for fire suppression, with talks expected to begin next month.

“We do see more of these issues in the future,” Parness said. “This needs more attention and it’s being addressed as we speak.”

City Councilman Peter Mott said he was still comfortable approving Elizabeth Spencer’s request, even while the policy issues have yet to be discussed.

“I see this a little differently,” Mott said. “There’s no potable use here — just fire suppression. I think we can provide (the water). I think we have to look at a policy discussion down the road.”

Sedgley was unconvinced.

“It’s about growth,” Sedgley said. “There’s a bigger impact here. I see us setting up kind of a precedent.”

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(36) Comments

  1. reagangirl
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    reagangirl - December 19, 2013 6:44 pm
    Am glad that they won't get Napa water -- they are a very unfriendly winery to locals.
  2. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - December 19, 2013 9:35 pm
    I'm with Scott Sedgley on this. Make sure, very sure that this isn't setting a precedence that will lead to more growth and winery expansion.
  3. Abouttime
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    Abouttime - December 20, 2013 12:29 am
    It is very much about growth. And that growth is a good thing. Scott seems to be stuck in the old no growth, keep Napa out of the Wine industry mindset. In the end it's a loosing strategy and why we have to make sure that Sedgley does not become our next Mayor. the campaign has already begun.
  4. Michael Haley
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    Michael Haley - December 20, 2013 12:37 am
    I'm with Sedgley too.You have to draw lines on things, and the way things break down it is always that first toe hold over the line that leads to more. If the rule is bad, change it, otherwise stick to it.

    As water gets more scarce, others will also apply for this. Huge increases in water use are happening due to all the increases in wineries and vineyards, and hotels, and etc.

    If there is not enough water for more development, that should slow down development, which is a good thing.

    Sooner or later there is going to be a several year drought, and the cities are going to get low allotments from the state, and then they are going to start pumping ground water.

    If the ground water runs low it can cause damage to the soil in terms of salinity, and it can go below current wells. No water, no grapes, no economy. We have to be really really careful with water.
  5. rocketman
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    rocketman - December 20, 2013 4:40 am
    I read and then re-read this article. It's about using City Water only in an emergency. If the agreement is iron-clad for using this water in only emergencies, what's the problem?? So what if other wineries ask to do the same. If they are not using the water unless there is a fire, that makes all the sense in the world.
  6. Old Time Napkin
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    Old Time Napkin - December 20, 2013 6:40 am
    Any winery in the county should not get city water. There is a planning process that they must pass and part of that should be that there is sufficient water for the winery for fire protection. Why should city dwellers subsidize a county winery? Once given the water where does it stop?More water to produce more wine? More wineries because they now have a new supply of water? During drought years do city dwellers have to conserve because the wineries need the water?
  7. glenroy
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    glenroy - December 20, 2013 7:13 am
    Like it or not life should be about helping if you can and staying out of the way if you can't....
    If the county now requires fire suppression then they ought to have figured out how to do it rather than pass another code without considering the consequences or costs…
    I think it should have been approved, it’s not like these things use a lot of water…once pressurized that’s it for water use maybe 1 in 500 will ever go off….if it is a safety issue then let em hook up it so they can meet the code that wasn't there when it was built... or it is another silly code passed without thought?
  8. Oldtimenapan
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    Oldtimenapan - December 20, 2013 7:40 am
    Nonsense. Everyone should be able to have access to water.
  9. kevin
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    kevin - December 20, 2013 8:12 am
    Fire sprinklers are now mandated by the county? Where is the water supposed to come from? Seems like yet more over regulation. That said, if city water is available, of course they should be allowed to utilize it for a fire system mandated by the county....
  10. SaxRox
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    SaxRox - December 20, 2013 8:22 am
    Is this a "winery" as in production? I think it's just a tasting room.
  11. Wineandfood
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    Wineandfood - December 20, 2013 8:45 am
    This is absurd - it's water only for a fire emergency - not for day to day use. Why does the city have hotels, resaurants, tasting rooms, and all this tax revenue. Becasue of the wineries!! How about a little support for the industry that keeps you in business.
  12. Cadence
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    Cadence - December 20, 2013 9:08 am
    I'd say the hundreds of dense infill housing units being built right now in Napa, a portion of which are affordable/low income, more than counts as "support for the industry." Those units will also require water. Napans stuck in congestion and paying ever higher water bills can be pleased that they are supporting the wine industry and you should be too.
  13. publiusa
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    publiusa - December 20, 2013 10:13 am
    Perhaps there are two important lessons to be learned here. The first is that Mr. Sedgley could learn from Ms. Inman about how to use a recusal in order to avoid appearance of impropriety. The second less is for Ms. Spencer to call the city employees union and find out what it takes to get Mr. Sedgley's help!
  14. Michael Haley
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    Michael Haley - December 20, 2013 10:24 am
    It's true that this is just a little bit over the line, but then why have any lines at all? Because water is not an unlimited resource. Everyone thinks we have a lot of water, we seem to, but we don't know what the limit is because we have never measured it exactly. There is a lot we dont' know about it.

    The agreement to protect farming here, which is the bottom line on the entire economy here, not the wineries or tourists, is that all cities use state water and the unincorporated county uses ground water. That protects ground water resources from depletion. Once you start taking ground water to use in municipal areas you are breaking that agreement and heading in the wrong direction.

    We need to start paying more attention to conserving water in Napa, for farming and everything else. We do not have an unlimited supply.
  15. Wineandfood
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    Wineandfood - December 20, 2013 11:13 am
    So you'd rather see congestion as a bedroom commute area to the larger bay area? that is the alternative if the wine industry fails and the ag preserve becomes houses. What's your choice? And in case you haven't realized it Napans ARE the wine industry, myself included. And forgive my ignornace, but how will hooking up for water for fire suppression ONLY increase my wter bill? That sky is falling mentality benefits no one.
  16. Wineandfood
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    Wineandfood - December 20, 2013 11:15 am
    And there is the major disconnect, wineries are farming. What would we do with all those grapes if there was no one to process or sell them?
  17. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - December 20, 2013 11:55 am
    There's more to this story than meets the eye.

    Does the winery want to expand their structure so that they can increase the number of visitors? If so, they would first need water for fire suppression which is required by the County. St. Helena water can't be used because pressure is too low, therefore they must ask Napa for water.

    No one is shutting the existing winery down because it lacks enough pressure to suppress fire. It's a small winery and it will remain small as long as they cannot access City water which they need for expansion.

    So, this is far more than just tapping into Napa water for fire suppression. It's ALL about winery expansion and growth which then will add more traffic woes, commuting employees, subsidy for a lower income workforce etc etc.

    Don't bother complaining about growth in Napa if you're unable to connect the dots and support these efforts to manage growth. Sedgley is spot on.
  18. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - December 20, 2013 12:07 pm
    Exactly right MH.

    Water is a tool for growth management. Water is the foundation of our carrying capacity. If we ignore that capacity in the name of "growth is good for business", all business will suffer and people will too. Rationing will be in our future and all of those who cry "government is too controlling" will cry even louder. They won't take responsibility for the fact that they promoted more growth in the name of "Growth is good for business."


  19. publiusa
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    publiusa - December 20, 2013 12:27 pm
    This is a ridiculous situation created by a bunch of incompetent bureaucrats. The water department sells millions of gallons of water every summer to trucking companies that transport the water to vineyards and other ranches and no one in the city really knows where the water goes.
  20. Cadence
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    Cadence - December 20, 2013 12:51 pm
    Congestion as a bedroom community sounds to me as something that will involve jobs that pay better than the wine industry, hence more taxes collected. For example, Lafayette is a bedroom community to the Bay Area. I don't see Lafayette becoming infilled or congested. I also notice that a LOT of workers commute upvalley for your industry. I'm not sure why it matters to you what direction commuters travel.

    And the water - the theory is that as demand increases but supply is static or declining, prices go up. Not much rain this year. Not much rain last year. Prices are higher for me than they ever have been. The city's population is higher than it ever has been and more are coming. I think Napa needs its city water for its residents. I think once one winery connects for whatever reason to the city supply, there will be more.

    Considering future needs isn't exactly "sky is falling" mentality, but that was a neat way to dismiss a real concern. Bravo.

  21. Wineandfood
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    Wineandfood - December 20, 2013 2:26 pm
    No, congestion will come from those that live here, like in American Canyon, and commute to the city, way worse that commuting upvalley. I've never seen traffic as bad on 29 as in the surrounding Bay Area, it's all relative.

    And yes, if there was a major fire catastrophe with everyone hooked up to city water it would be a disaster. Really?
  22. Cadence
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    Cadence - December 20, 2013 3:59 pm
    Have you seen hwy 29 NB in the morning? How about SB over the Butler Bridge on a Friday afternoon? Napa already involves lots of commuting.

    You know what I know, that the biggest cause of Hwy 29's congestion thru AmCan are the blocks of shopping centers on both sides of the highway as well as the numerous traffic signals. In the early 2000s, yes there was a lot of residential growth in AmCan but Hwy 29 was very passable. That ended when WalMart opened (after Safeway, restaurants, etc.) and proved the straw that broke the camel's back.

    Now Napa will join the crowd with its own Costco, with strip shopping centers along Soscol and later on 221 to serve Napa Pipe. Congestion is already here and it will become worse with or without winery-generated traffic.

    And the denial wasn't about a future fire. It was about setting a precedent.
  23. Crosscountrykid
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    Crosscountrykid - December 20, 2013 4:20 pm
    Looking at their website, the winery sources its grapes from various location. Did not see any info about where the actual production is done.
  24. Crosscountrykid
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    Crosscountrykid - December 20, 2013 4:23 pm
    Barry Martin, can you comment on this, please? Not the remark about the city employees, but about the sale, if any, of water. I just don't know. Thanks.
  25. StillInNapa
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    StillInNapa - December 20, 2013 4:34 pm
    If a winery is tapped into Napa's water for fire protection and their primary source goes dry, if it's on a well or gets rationed which happens in St. Helena, what would stop them from using their only other source? What did the county think when the permit was issued? Wineries generally have room for storage of some sort, for fire protection. Napa's water should be reserved for residential customers, we have no viable back up. If there are years of drought we will be in trouble. Perhaps if the wineries built a desalination plant along the south Napa river, they could trade for Henessy water.
  26. Oldtimenapan
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    Oldtimenapan - December 20, 2013 4:54 pm
    The heck with the wineries. Turn Napa into a bedroom commuter town, all the illegal people will leave, gang want a be's will leave when the illegals leave.sounds better already.
  27. Mashed Potatoes
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    Mashed Potatoes - December 20, 2013 7:03 pm
    Go back to the water rate hearings in 2011. It all came out then.
  28. Mashed Potatoes
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    Mashed Potatoes - December 20, 2013 7:04 pm
    Ask the water department lady...she knows.
  29. Michael Haley
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    Michael Haley - December 20, 2013 7:16 pm
    Let's put it this way, we could not do without the grapes because that is what makes Napa wine famous, the land and the grapes it produces. If we had a few less wineries we would probably be better off, we sure wouldn't miss them.

    Too much development is the biggest threat to the future of Napa's wine industry. The Ag Preserve is the only thing stopping this valley from getting paved over. Wineries can be built anywhere, including down by the airport or in another county. Napa grapes can only be grown on Napa soil.
  30. Michael Haley
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    Michael Haley - December 20, 2013 7:22 pm
    That is actually one solution, turn the valley floor into condos and houses. That is what has happened to every other farming area that faced urban development that I have ever heard of, Pasadena, Santa Clara, Orange County, Florida where I used to live. Lots more money to be made in housing development than there is in farming.

    If we don't have the water for farms that is what is going to happen.

    I lived in a place in Orlando called Dr. Phillips, weird name for a city but it used to all be owned by an orange grower named Dr. Phillips. Development came in and all that is left is a couple orange trees at the entrance to each neighborhood.
  31. HeavyDB
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    HeavyDB - December 20, 2013 8:06 pm
    Omg, what a total over reaction! Can you people read? No water will be used other than in emergency. Stop making a huge issue out of this and approve the hookup!
  32. publiusa
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    publiusa - December 21, 2013 9:19 am
    Well, we don't know much but we have our new water expert, Scott Sedgley to guide us so just do what he says.
  33. sashu
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    sashu - December 21, 2013 12:12 pm
    The Gorden Huether art studio is in the the water deficient Coombsville/MST basin. So this business is allowed to get city water while the residents get recycled effluent water from the city of napa.
  34. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - December 22, 2013 2:00 am
    Sedgley is just being protective of water for the City of Napa. Winery people might not be appreciative but those of you who live in Napa should be, especially if several drought years hit hard.

    He's thinking about the "what ifs" of the future. I wish more decision makers would do that.
  35. glenroy
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    glenroy - December 23, 2013 8:22 am
    We can do without local grapes if it came to it....Napa wineries buy more Cab from SLO that SLO wineries…besides reality is you can grow a grape in just about any environment, from wetlands to aired desert and make a good wine from it as long as it has sugar….reading the comments wineandfood is dead on.
    The point here is another code that was written without through consideration or perhaps even to use to spite some wineries with our new selective code enforcement....that's how local government is ‘managed’ today, it’s all about themselves and how much they can fine those who speak out against them…our assessor is notorious for doing that….every year building inspectors seem to get more incompetent and vindictive.
    Those who were here when Napa was the Prune Capital of the World know…back when the city and county, and their workers, worked for the tax payers not their greed lust unions....when they helped Napans met code requirements.
    They’re turning this Valley into Cronyville...
  36. Joe B
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    Joe B - December 27, 2013 10:54 pm
    How can you get an approved set of plans for a sprinkler system without a water supply? Approved plans for a sprinkler system would require hydraulic calculations based on its water supply for approval. There has to be other facilities close bye with sprinkler systems, what's the source of their water?
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