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I wrote this back in December of 2002. It is just as pertinent today as it was then.

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed Napa Oaks development in southwest Napa. My position is based on two important facts. First and foremost, this proposed development is in clear violation of our city’s General Plan. Secondary to this is that the project, if built, will negatively alter the character of our community in a way that is irreparable.

First some history. In October, 1991 the long process of updating the General Plan for the City of Napa was begun with the appointment of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee. In the latter part of 1993 neighborhood and community-wide meetings were held to obtain feedback on that committee’s concept report. The report was in turn revised as a result of the public input process and the work of the City Council. All this hard work by the citizens of Napa and the City Council eventually led to the adoption of the general plan document Envision Napa 2020 on Dec. 1, 1998. This document included the new land use category of “RA-Resource Area” which was designed to address the community’s serious concern for sensitive lands inside the RUL that, due to their viewshed, resource, habitat, geotechnical, and other considerations merit special standards when development is considered.

A city’s general plan is it’s heart and soul. To steal a line from the plan’s introduction it is, “a community’s constitution for land use and development.”  The general plan’s first stated goal is to “provide citizens with information about their community and with opportunities to participate in setting goals and determining policies and standards for the community’s development.”

Napans, I am happy to say, have achieved this first goal. We were involved in creating a plan for our community that clearly expressed our desires for what the future of Napa should look like. The plan is particularly clear in addressing concerns relating to environmental protection for especially sensitive areas.

Having recognized Pod 123 (Napa Oaks) as a prime candidate for the RA land use designation, the City Council, after listening to more input from the citizens of Napa agreed that this property had sufficient sensitivity to merit it’s status as an RA and so designated it as such.

This is a wonderful example of local democracy in action, citizens taking on the responsibility of planning for the future of their community and government responding appropriately to the concerns of the people.

Now we have a developer from outside our community who is telling us that the plan that we created together, our vision for the future of Napa, our home, is wrong. They are telling us that they know better than we do what the future of our community should look like. They are telling us to lower our standard of environmental protection so that they in turn can make some money.

As a citizen of Napa, as a person who participates in local government, as a supporter of our collective vision of our city’s future, I can’t tell you how deeply this offends me. It is our right, our privilege, and in fact our responsibility as citizens of this community to create the General Plan that guides our journey to the future.

I urge the City Council not to let some slick developer with a fat wallet and a cool PowerPoint presentation alter the document that this community worked so hard to prepare. The future of Napa is for it’s citizens to design and we have done that. The Napa Oaks subdivision does not fit that vision.

If the Napa Oaks subdivision on Pod 123 is allowed to go forward (i.e. if the City Council approves a General Plan amendment) the environmental character of southwest Napa will be forever changed. The open space, visible from almost everywhere in the city, surrounding our community both inside the RUL and out, separates Napa from other communities and in fact defines our character.

The loss of such a resource can not be mitigated. Napa and it’s citizens recognized the importance of this resource well before other towns and cities in our area and moved to preserve this critical characteristic of our community. For that reason we are unique and our General Plan reflects our desire to remain so.

The City Council must not begin the process of eroding the plan that we have worked so hard to develop. They need to stay true to the vision of this community and support the RA designation for Pod 123. If Napa Oaks is built, we will lose significantly more than we could ever gain from such a development. What would be lost is the character which we so greatly value in this community.

Chuck Dresel