Two hearings next week that could have decided the fate of the Napa Pipe project have been canceled so the developers can revise their application and shrink the project’s proposed size.
The Napa County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to hold hearings on the project June 11 and 13, but those were canceled Monday at the developers’ request, Napa County Planning Director Hillary Gitelman wrote in an email.
Whit Manley, a lawyer working with Napa Redevelopment Partners, asked Gitelman on Monday morning to delay the hearings while the project team revises the project’s application and aligns it with recommendations from the Napa County Planning Commission.
The developers had wanted to build 2,050 homes on a 154-acre site just south of the city of Napa on the east banks of the Napa River, while planning staff proposed 700 to 945 homes.
Following a series of public meetings this spring, the county Planning Commission voted May 2 to recommend the size of the staff proposal to the Board of Supervisors.
“We hope to present the Planning Commission with a revised proposal that is responsive to the new information and perspective we’ve gathered, as a result of the commission and staff’s thoughtful efforts,” Manley wrote in an email to Gitelman.
“We are also working to ensure that our revised proposal is feasible in all respects — hence the need for additional time in order to submit.”
It was unclear Monday whether the revised application means the Board of Supervisors simply has to delay the hearings, or if the project has to go back to the Planning Commission for a new recommendation.
County staff will have to evaluate the revised proposal once it’s submitted, Gitelman said.
“If the revised proposal includes features that were not discussed by the Planning Commission, then it will have to go back to them for a recommendation,” she said.
Planning staff will also analyze whether the project’s environmental impact report will still sufficiently address the revised proposal.
Manley wrote that the developers expect the revised application to be submitted shortly. “We anticipate this delay will be very brief,” he said.
The project’s initial application in March 2007 called for building 3,200 homes for a mixed-use neighborhood on the site, which was formerly used for steel manufacturing.
That was reduced to 2,580 homes before the process of compiling the project’s environmental impact report started in January 2009. Before the final EIR was released in February, the developers agreed to reduce the number of units to 2,050.
In February, county planning staff released its recommendation of 700 to 945 units focused on the western half of the site, which is split by railroad tracks. Staff proposed that the western portion be devoted to residential uses, while the eastern half remain zoned industrial.
At the time, Keith Rogal, the face of Napa Redevelopment Partners, questioned the financial feasibility of building so few units, saying his team would need to analyze this amount. On Monday, Rogal declined to publicly comment on the revised proposal.
In advocating for the staff recommendation, Gitelman cited the potential reduction in the county’s regional housing allocation for the next decade, and the possibility that the city of Napa could provide water to a smaller project.
The county’s current housing plan calls for 300 to 400 units to be built on a 20-acre portion of the site. The city had provided a letter to the county stating that it would provide water to a development of that size, Gitelman said at the time.
Whether the city would provide water to a 700- to 945-unit development is unclear; city officials have maintained opposition to large-scale residential development for years.
The staff housing recommendation went to the Planning Commission, which conducted four hearings on the project between February and May. Proponents of the project touted the developer’s vision of a dense, walkable neighborhood that’s not seen in much of Napa County, and praised the project as a way to provide affordable housing. Twenty percent of Napa Pipe’s units would be categorized as affordable.
Opponents said the project’s potential use of the groundwater beneath it violated the county’s General Plan and would set a dangerous precedent. They also said it would worsen traffic in the areas surrounding the site, and runs counter to the notion of city-centered growth.
On May 2, Planning Commissioners Bob Fiddaman, Terry Scott and Mike Basayne voted in favor of General Plan and zoning amendment changes that would allow construction of 700 to 945 units. Commissioners Heather Phillips and Matt Pope voted no. The commission’s recommendation went to the Board of Supervisors.