As reflected in an article dated Aug. 14, August was a busy month for the Board of Supervisors, with five appeals scheduled regarding winery issues, one of which concerned the Mountain Peak Winery, a proposed facility at the top of Soda Canyon Road. The facility was initially approved by a 3-1 vote by the Planning Commission on a “negative declaration,” i.e., without a proper environmental impact report consistent with the California Environment Quality Act.
Hundreds of people signed petitions against the project and four area residents filed formal appeals to the Board of Supervisors. Following a hearing in May, the board (with one member absent) tentatively voted to reject the appeals with a final vote subsequently scheduled for Aug. 22 The following is modified from a letter I submitted to the Board prior to that hearing but later learned that public input was not considered.
On Aug. 22, you had the opportunity to rectify what I think was an egregious error in your decision in May to tentatively approve the above facility that, if carried forward, will negatively impact the lives hundreds of citizens living off Soda Canyon Road and present serious risks to the water supply to thousands of others.
I think that the data, detailed analyses, references (submitted in attachments to appellants' appeals NCC form 2.88.050) and testimony presented by the appellants at hearing was far more convincing than that presented by the applicant and, were it a trial by jury, my bet on the finding would be in favor of the appellants beyond a shadow of a doubt.
One must sympathize with the residents and others who, on a daily or regular basis, have to drive the narrow, winding roads with only one access point. I fail to understand how you and some members of the Planning Commission and a few others acknowledge these hazardous conditions and yet can rationalize and dismiss the increased danger that will accompany the increased number vehicles that will result from the project.
Also, from the almost cavalier attitude and minimization of dealing with the issues surrounding the risk of wildfire, I gather those presenters had not witnessed the Atlas Peak fire or interviewed residents who lost homes or otherwise suffered through it.
The offered "voluntary condition of approval" is certainly in keeping with expectations and requirements for the AVA and Napa Valley branding (and seemed a determining factor for most of you) but, to me, it really offers almost nothing to the conversation of fire danger, road safety, water supply degradation for Rector dam and the host of other environmental problems addressed in detail in the appellants’ presentations and never adequately rebutted by the county.
I must add that with this project, as well as others I've studied or read about, you (as well as the planning commission and city officials) seem to give little or no consideration to the cumulative impact each approved project adds to the degradation of ecology and quality of life in our county. Residents are complaining about traffic and other aspects of their quality of life, be it at town hall meetings, letters to the editor, testimony at hearings, in the locker room or other social gatherings, and it seems those drums are beating louder and louder the past few years.
I write to recommend and request that you red tag this project and note that in doing so you will fulfill your responsibilities as supervisors by protecting the environment and not increasing the risk of harm to the citizens living in the area.
Stephen J. Donoviel
Editor’s note: The supervisors approved the Mountain Peak Winery proposal on Aug. 22, but an attorney for area residents who opposed the plan has asked the board to reconsider.