Owners of an east Napa winery have agreed to pay nearly $550,000 in fines and to remove 750 vines to settle charges that they violated state and local zoning and land use regulations in developing their property.
The owners of Palmaz Winery agreed to the deal to end a case brought by the Napa County Counsel’s Office and Napa District Attorney's Office, alleging the winery improperly altered the course of a stream, planted vines within a buffer zone to meant to protect Hagen Creek and took other actions in violation of county and state Fish & Game regulations.
In the settlement, winery owners Julio and Amalia Palmaz acknowledged they deposited cave tailings and fill without first securing a soil erosion control permit, constructed vineyard avenues without necessary permits, and unlawfully planted about 750 grapevines within the stream setback of Hagen Creek.
The agreement entered in Napa County Superior Court also found the Palmazes cut back stream vegetation and reconstructed or repaired two bridges without first obtaining required approvals from the California Department of Fish & Game.
The judgment requires the Palmazes to pay a $375,000 civil penalty to the county for these violations. It also orders them to pay an additional $130,000 to the Napa County Fish & Wildlife Propagation Fund, $30,000 to the State Fish and Game Preservation Fund, and $15,000 to the Department of Fish and Game.
Attorneys involved in the case say that, including environmental studies the Palmazes initiated in the litigation, the total cost to resolve the environmental concerns is $1,250,000.
In addition to the penalties, the settlement:
— Places a moratorium on further development on designated portions of undeveloped areas of the Palmazes’ property until they conduct and complete a wetlands and watercourse assessment;
— Prohibits the Palmazes from engaging in any future activities that would violate the county’s soil erosion control, stream setback and grading ordinances;
— Prohibits the Palmazes from violating Fish & Game laws pertaining to the alteration of stream beds, banks and channels, and the pollution of streams with deleterious materials; and
— Orders the Palmazes to remove and restore various alterations to the property made without proper approvals and permits, including restoring a natural spring, planting trees in an area where vegetation was cut back adjacent to the creek, and removing approximately 750 vines from areas within the stream setbacks.
“Today’s settlement and judgment represents many months of hard work and collaboration between the District Attorney’s Office, County officials, and the California Department of Fish & Game, as well as extensive discussions with legal representatives for the Palmaz family. The resolution represents the largest monetary judgment by far, combined with equitable and restorative provisions and requirements, that we have ever seen in any case of this nature in Napa County,” said District Attorney Gary Lieberstein. “The County’s determination in pursuing the resolution should make it very clear that the County will not tolerate such conduct in the future.”