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Don Williams' Wood Shop

Don Williams' Wood Shop on Washington Street was shut down Aug. 13 due to city code violations.

A woodworking shop at 515 Washington Street, owned by Calistoga City Council member Don Williams, has been shut down due to land and building use violations, according to the city.

For the past few months, Williams has been renting the space to Wine Barrel Furniture, owned and operated by Paul Block. On July 13, Brad Cannon, with the planning and building department, along with Fire Chief Steve Campbell, responded to a complaint about manufacturing going on in the shop and immediately closed down operations.

There were two reasons for the shutdown, Cannon said. One, the shop is only zoned for storage, and two, the risk of fire is increased with manufacturing taking place in the shop. “There is a big difference between operating as storage and factory,” he said.

According to City Manager Mike Kirn, Williams’ building permit was issued in 1990 for storage and office use.

It’s a question of the land use compatible with current zoning, Kirn said, adding the site is currently zoned for residential use.

Williams said in an interview he had been operating light manufacturing at the shop during the time his business occupied the space, and thought that Block’s business was a match for use of the building, but also said he “had no knowledge” of what Block was doing in the shop other than storing wood and supplies. Block had not responded to phone messages as of Firday monring.

Earlier this year, Williams was forced to evict a different tenant out of the shop, named Dan Williams, who was storing electrical equipment in the shop, but living in an RV on the property. It is unclear whether Dan Williams was using the shop as a partial residence. Don Williams said the shop has a bathroom but no kitchen facilities.

Williams also owns the house in front of the shop, and another residence on Cedar Street which he also rents.

Other than that violation, the city says it doesn’t have any records of past complaints regarding use of the shop on Washington.

“I don’t believe there have been any,” Kirn said.

The city is now evaluating the zoning and land use permit with the city attorney, and expects to present Williams with its findings in the next few days.

The situation is “challenging,” Kirn said. “In our opinion it’s not compliant with the type of occupancy associated with the original construction of what the building was built for.”

Kirn added the city is “using the same process we did for Buster’s Bar-B-Que (That was cited earlier this year for improper grading),” Kirn said. “It’s not like we’re treating the situation any differently.

It just takes a little bit of time for us to navigate through the legal review and make sure we’ve got it correct and accurate.”

Senior Planning Director Zach Tusinger says there haven’t been any zoning map changes for the Washington Street area in question since 2003.

The area where the shop is located on south Washington Street is a mix of industrial and residential use, often at close quarters. For use of his shop, Williams has been referring to a 2010 Urban Design and Land Use Element in the city’s General Plan that allows mixed use and small-scale industrial use in that area of the street, he said.

He operated his own wood flooring business in the shop for about 26 years, he said, before he retired and started renting it out.

Williams said he was notified by Block on the day the shop was red tagged, and subsequently went to the city planning office and spoke to Tusinger about the complaint. He has not been issued a specific citation yet, however.

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The Weekly Calistogan Editor

Cynthia Sweeney has been editor of The Weekly Calistogan since July, 2018. Previously, she was a reporter for the St. Helena Star, and North Bay Business Journal. She also spent a significant amount of time freelancing in Hawaii.