Napa County supervisors want to know more about local initiatives designed to strengthen watershed protections, ban new, personal-use heliports and allow Blakeley Construction to remain on rural land near Calistoga.
Supervisors on Tuesday could have placed the initiatives on the June 5 ballot or simply adopted them without changes. But they chose a third option.
The Board of Supervisors by unanimous vote ordered county staff to prepare so-called 9111 reports – named after a state code section – within 30 days. When the reports are done, supervisors will once again be faced with the choice of placing the initiatives on the ballot or adopting them.
One option supervisors don’t have is to ignore the initiatives. In each case, backers gathered the minimum 3,792 signatures from local registered voters to qualify their measure for the ballot.
A 9111 report can address such issues as an initiative’s impacts on jobs, housing, roads, businesses, agricultural lands, open space, traffic congestion or any other matter requested by the Board of Supervisors.
“In my opinion, it’s a good idea for us to get an impartial look at the initiatives,” Board of Supervisors Chair Brad Wagenknecht said.
The Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018 has already proven controversial. It would set new stream setbacks and limit how many acres of oak woodlands could be cut down to make room for new vineyards and other developments in local hills.
Opposing the initiative are the Napa County Farm Bureau, Napa Valley Vintners, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Winegrowers of Napa County. Napa Valley Vintners helped author and initially backed the initiative, but later reversed itself.
Resident Yeoryios Apallas during public comments said he guessed at least three supervisors oppose the watershed initiative. He was concerned that the county might use the Miller Starr Regalia law firm to help prepare the 9111 report. Miller Starr Regalia defended in court the county’s 2016 decision to disqualify a previous version of the initiative on a technicality.
“You must act impartially,” Apallas urged supervisors. “You must act as information gatherers. You must not put your thumb on the scale of analysis.”
Ryan Klobas of Napa County Farm Bureau said such questions remain as how to define an oak woodland.
“We believe (the initiative) places an undue burden on agriculture and contains too many unknown variables,” Klobas said.
Mike Hackett, a co-author of the initiative, had a message for supervisors.
“If you go against this, you’re going to end up on the wrong side of this, because the citizens believe in it,” Hackett said.
The Initiative to Disallow the Use of Personal Airports and Helipads comes in the wake of the Palmaz family’s attempts to build a heliport a few miles east of the city of Napa. Palmaz opponents have expressed concern that the yet-be-be-approved Palmaz project could open the door to more personal heliports, bringing noise to rural Napa Valley.
“The initiative is very simple,” said George Caloyannidis, who spearheaded the initiative.
Attorney Brian Russell, who represents the Palmaz proposal, also addressed the Board.
“This is the brainchild of an individual who has a personal vendetta against one proposed project,” Russell said.
Blakeley Construction Initiative would allow the firm to remain on rural land along Franz Valley School Road, even though the land is zoned for agriculture. Otherwise, the firm must leave its home of five decades.
Public speakers addressed the Board speaking both for and against the Blakeley initiative.
“It’s obvious we’re going to have a lively election this year,” Wagenknecht said.