Napa County planning staff is touting its vision for a smaller Napa Pipe project as providing a compact, walkable neighborhood, but a local group is questioning if it’s too small to make that possible.
Staff and developer Keith Rogal are offering competing proposals for the project, with Rogal advocating a 2,050-home project on 134 acres, while staff supports a 700- to 945-home project on 63 acres.
The developer’s original proposal was for 3,200 homes, then 2,580, and finally 2,050. The project will be mixed-use and have a hotel, a living facility for seniors, and other retail and commercial spaces.
Both proposals will be offered at the county Planning Commission’s meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St. Members of the public are invited to question staff and the applicant. Another meeting will be held March 19, and residents can offer comments at that meeting. The commission will make a recommendation on the project after the public comments.
Planning Director Hillary Gitelman has said the smaller project allowed staff to strike a balance between providing the compact, walkable neighborhood the developer envisions with the reduced housing needs the county anticipates having.
Eve Kahn, chair of Get a Grip on Growth, said when she first read the staff proposal she was pleased with the vision for a smaller project. It didn’t require an exemption to limits included in the county’s growth management plan — “one of my big battles,” Kahn said.
But she questioned if the project’s size would be enough to support a school at the site and retail facilities, elements of keeping traffic off the roads.
“Once you cut it down small enough, you just put even more people on the road,” Kahn said. “A sustainable, walkable community goes out the door.”
Kahn’s group raised concerns about the project in a letter to county planners after the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report was released in 2009. It did so again after a supplement to that report was issued last year.
The applicants propose possibly setting aside a 10-acre site for an elementary school, while county staff’s proposal does not.
Kahn said she was also concerned about what kind of tenants the development would attract, saying it might appeal more to people looking to purchase a second home, not working-class families.
“My fear is you’re going to have a lot of tourists and hotels and not the workforce housing we need,” Kahn said. “We need housing for our workers and it needs to be in a place that fits their lifestyles.”
Kahn said she was opposed to the project, and said building it would jeopardize opportunities to bring light-industrial development to the area.
“It’s the last big light-industrial space,” Kahn said. “This project should get turned down now.”
Bernhard Krevet, president of Friends of the Napa River, said his organization still needed to wade through the details contained in the voluminous environmental report for the project, but said staff’s proposal potentially posed less impact to the environment.
“In a way, I like the reduced (project) because it would reduce some of the pressures on our natural environment,” Krevet said.
Krevet questioned putting the residential units nearest the river, which both proposals do, as that area is prone to be the most impacted by flooding or sea levels rising.
Krevet said his group raised concerns about the project’s environmental impacts in two letters, one in 2010 and another in 2011. The group is still researching and Krevet couldn’t yet say if its concerns were adequately addressed.
CORRECTION: The original version of this story has been changed to reflect that it is the county staff's proposal that does not include a school.