Wine groups endorse ‘best practices’ list for new projects

2013-07-04T20:52:00Z 2013-07-10T13:00:37Z Wine groups endorse ‘best practices’ list for new projectsPETER JENSEN Napa Valley Register
July 04, 2013 8:52 pm  • 

After being at odds over Napa County’s proposed Climate Action Plan last fall, county planning staff and wine industry groups have reached accord in developing a list of “best practices” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Staff, industry groups, land-use planners, civil engineers and attorneys have been working on the list since April, and it’s intended to be included in the packet of materials applicants receive when they seek development approval from the county.

The applicants would use the voluntary list to check off aspects of their projects that reduce emissions, such as having solar energy on site, reducing waste, conserving water and energy, or restoring habitat.

The list could ultimately be included in the Climate Action Plan, which is under revision after the Board of Supervisors declined to adopt it in December. Wine industry groups protested the plan’s tactics for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the unincorporated area, which would have targeted new winery projects.

The plan would have required new projects to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 38 percent below “business as usual,” or the emissions that would result if the developers didn’t change their plans.

The supervisors voiced a preference for revising the plan to focus more on transportation-related emissions and other sources, thus reducing the requirement on new development.

County staff wanted to get the best practices list in place before moving on to the Climate Action Plan, and intends to continue working with industry representatives to produce a revised draft of the plan this fall. That plan will eventually return to the commission and the Board of Supervisors.

At its meeting Wednesday morning, the Napa County Planning Commission signed off on getting the best practices list in place.

“Let’s go ahead and get this thing into use,” Commissioner Matt Pope said. “This is really an issue where local leadership is going to drive what’s needed.”

Commissioner Mike Basayne said he was encouraged by how the county and industry had worked together to produce the list.

“I like the focus on best practices,” Basayne said. “It’s very heartening to see how collaborative this process has been.”

The Napa County Farm Bureau, the Napa Valley Vintners and Winegrowers of Napa County had been among the most vocal critics of the Climate Action Plan last fall, but representatives from each group spoke favorably of the best practices list Wednesday.

Jon-Mark Chappellet of the Napa County Farm Bureau said his organization’s board of directors could endorse the best practices list soon. Speaking personally, he sees benefits from such a list.

“I don’t see where the Farm Bureau is going to have any issue with this,” Chappellet said. “I think this is a very, very valuable thing.”

Michelle Benvenuto, executive director of Winegrowers of Napa County, praised the county’s willingness to work with industry groups.

“The county has been great about working with the stakeholders,” Benvenuto said.

Michelle Novi of the Napa Valley Vintners said the list, and revisions to previous drafts, satisfied her organization’s concerns.

“The revisions to the list addressed all of the NVV’s concerns,” Novi said. “I think we’re headed in a really positive direction.”

Staff continues to research the possibility of setting up a local offset program, where developers could pay into and offset their projects’ emissions by funding renewable energy and other environmentally friendly projects, according to a county staff report.

They’ll also work on a draft of local building code amendments that could require larger homes to use higher-efficiency building materials. They’ve set a target of making the new code effective starting in 2014, following a public process that would include the Board of Supervisors voting to adopt it.

And they are working with the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency on a travel behavior study that would highlight the ways greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced through transit services.

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