A group opposed to the Yountville Hill Winery project announced Wednesday that it intends to appeal the project’s use permit to the Napa County Board of Supervisors.
Controversy has swirled around the proposed 100,000-gallon winery, which will replace a defunct bed and breakfast, and will be perched on Yountville Hill, since neighbors were notified of the plans earlier this year. The Napa County Planning Commission voted 3-1 on July 2 to approve the use permit.
The project won approval only after Commissioner Matt Pope changed his decision on it, having at first opposed it but later supported it.
Mary Ann Moffitt, a neighbor to the project who represents the group Save Yountville Hill, wrote in an email Wednesday that group members have decided to appeal, and will argue that the project is inappropriate for its location, and bends county rules and regulations to fit it into an 11-acre parcel south of Yount Mill Road.
“The aggressive marketing plan bringing more than 50,000 visitors per year to the site will make traffic more hazardous in an already congested section of Highway 29,” Moffitt wrote. “Retaining walls several stories high and visible from the highway and surrounding areas will be needed to support the roads and new buildings; landscaping is expected to take years to fill in the walls and construction areas, a difficult task on the western facing, rocky slopes.”
Developer Eric Sklar said Thursday that he expected the appeal to be filed, and it will put the project on hold for at least the next three months. Appeals have to be heard within 90 days, but they can last longer if both sides agree to the delays.
Moffitt’s group has to subsequently file a statement of appeal explaining their grounds and rationale for the appeal, and Lester Hardy, an attorney working on the project with Sklar, said he wanted to wait and review that document before speaking directly to the decision.
Yountville Hill is one of a series of winery projects that have been subject to public criticism before the Planning Commission in recent months. Neighbors, residents and vintners have objected to the projects seeking exceptions and variances to county rules, or because they ask for visitation plans that critics feel is out of proportion with the size and production levels of the winery.
The planning commissioners have said repeatedly that it’s up to the Board of Supervisors to change policies regulating winery development. Planning staff and the wine industry are collaborating to analyze key aspects of growth in wineries and the impacts to public resources such as roads or groundwater. Recommendations are due to the Planning Commission within months.
Hardy said he expects the supervisors to consider this context when they weigh the appeal. The board acts in a quasi-judicial capacity in ruling on appeals of Planning Commission decisions, with the evidence usually limited to the documents and record of the meeting, Hardy said.
“They’ll be thinking about the context,” Hardy said. “They should be thinking about the context. They have these larger questions to address. The decision makers need to move forward to grapple with these things.”