A long-time Napa County grape-growing family seeking to build a Carneros region winery and a developer seeking to build a nearby city of Napa subdivision are eyeing each other warily.
The Truchards came to the Napa County Planning Commission on Wednesday proposing to build a winery at 4062 Old Sonoma Road. The location is a rural area with vineyards.
Davidon Homes officials also attended the meeting. The developer wants to build the 53-home Napa Oaks II subdivision inside the city limits on 80 acres in the hills near the Truchard property.
The Truchards have opposed Napa Oaks II and now Davidon Homes is expressing concerns about the Truchard winery. The Planning Commission postponed the matter until June 7 at the requests of both sides.
Outside the meeting chamber, Truchard representative Kirsty Shelton Gerosa characterized the matter as “a neighborhood dispute” that has nothing to do with the merits of the Truchard proposal.
Davidon Homes contends the proposed winery could affect the Napa Oaks II property and that state law requires a full-fledged environmental impact report.
“That hasn’t been done yet,” said Steve Abbs, vice president of Davidon Homes, outside the meeting room. “So we don’t know yet what the impacts are.”
Tony and Jo Ann Truchard have grown grapes in the Carneros area since buying an abandoned, 20-acre prune orchard there in the early 1970s. They opened a small winery in a barn in 1990. Today, the family owns 400 acres made up of 15 parcels, with about 270 acres planted in vineyards.
Now the family wants to build a second winery on their land, one producing up to 100,000 gallons annually and entertaining up to 320 tasting room visitors a week. The applicant is Anthony Truchard II, the son of Tony and Jo Ann Truchard and general manger of Truchard Vineyards.
“As the industry has changed, hospitality is more important,” Anthony Truchard II wrote in the application. “Our new facility has more hospitality space and is designed to focus on giving customers more connection with the estate and views of the vineyards.”
A Napa County planning report recommended the Planning Commission grant approval.
The Truchard family has long been among the many critics of controversial attempts by Davidon Homes to build Napa Oaks. Tony Truchard in a 2002 letter appearing in the Napa Valley Register opposed an earlier version of the project.
In November 2012, Tony Truchard wrote a letter to the city of Napa expressing concerns about attempts by Davidon Homes to revive the project as Napa Oaks II.
“The sheer natural beauty of this area would be forever sacrificed—no possibility of ever being restored to its natural state,” Tony Truchard wrote. “Many oaks would be removed and extensive grading in an already unstable area would occur.”
Napa Oaks II would infringe on his water rights and be against general policies of both the city and county of Napa, Truchard wrote. He intends to take legal action against it if it proceeds, he wrote.
Tony and Jo Ann Truchard in a 2016 letter appearing in the Napa Valley Register wrote, “We can’t believe we have to fight this proposal for the third time in many years.”
The subdivision developers are now laying the groundwork to possibly oppose the proposed Truchard winery. The law firm Perkins Coie on behalf of Davidon Homes submitted a May 2 letter to Napa County requesting the project undergo further environmental study.
One issue mentioned is aesthetics. The letter said the proposed winery would be visible from a proposed public trail system on the Davidon site.
The letter said more study is needed to access possible impacts on rare species such as the western pond turtle and pallid bat, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality and groundwater.
Finally, the letter noted that the Truchards are requesting an exception to county rules for the project. The Truchards have failed to show the project meets the standards for a variance (an exception), it said.
The Truchards want the variance to allow them to build the winery 412 feet from the center line of Old Sonoma Road. County rules call for a 600-foot setback for new wineries from major roads.
A Napa County planning report said the Truchards can’t meet the setback requirement because of the irregular shape of their 11.5-acre property. It recommended the Planning Commission grant the exception.
But the Napa Oaks II letter said that the Truchards own every parcel adjacent to the 11.5-acre property. They could simply adjust a lot line or merge parcels and comply with the setback, it said.
The proposed Truchard winery is under the jurisdiction of Napa County and the proposed Napa Oaks II subdivision is under the jurisdiction of the city of Napa. Different governing boards and commissions will rule on them.
The city of Napa released a draft environmental impact report on Napa Oaks II last year. Community Development Director Rick Tooker said the next step is to complete a final environmental report responding to comments received on the draft version. The city Planning Commission will then hold a hearing at a date to be determined.