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A slow-growth Angwin group wants to burst the so-called Angwin urban bubble, a decades-old zoning area at the center of a controversy over the future of Angwin.

Save Rural Angwin, an opposition group to Pacific Union College’s proposal to develop 391 housing units in what it calls its Eco-Village to provide money for an endowment, wants the county to carve up the bubble into planning zones designed to protect agricultural land, limiting acreage the college can develop to less than 200 affordable units.

The group made the proposal on June 15 as a comment on the county’s draft general plan update.

Under the Save Rural Angwin Plan, much of the old Angwin urban bubble would be placed under an “institutional” designation, with chunks to the north, east, northwest, and southwest designated for agriculture. The Angwin market area would be dubbed commercial, while a peninsula of land to the north and a parcel of land at the southern end of PUC would be zoned “rural residential” to provide land for faculty and staff housing.

“This is a very positive proposal,” said group spokesman Allen Spence in a statement. “We value the college as a major community asset, and we want to see it succeed. From the first day of our organization, we have declared that we will support PUC’s need for faculty and staff housing. This proposal makes that possible.”

PUC officials disagree, stressing that the urban bubble is key to the Seventh Day Adventist college’s future in Napa County. Without the endowment, they have said there will be a dire future for the college.

“SRA’s efforts could result in depriving thousands of faculty, students, staff and their families of a vibrant, healthy institution on which they depend,” PUC President Dick Osborn said in a statement. “If we are unable to grow our endowment in response to trends that threaten our financial future, our long-term ability to function is jeopardized by SRA’s plan. This plan condemns PUC and Angwin to slow, agonizing and inevitable decline.”

PUC officials point out it takes a certain number of market rate housing to subsidize affordable units. In the college’s current plan, about 15 percent of the housing would be so-called affordable and 20 percent would be “workforce”, less expensive than market rate homes but more expensive than affordable homes.

Spence said Save Rural Angwin’s zoning plan would avoid major traffic problems he believes PUC’s development proposal would cause.

“The negative impacts of a development such as envisioned by (PUC-hired developer) Triad (Communities) would significantly increase the population of Angwin,” Spence said. It would create a heavy and dangerous traffic load on Howell Mountain Road and Deer Park Road leading the Valley. It would convert land that has been in agricultural use for nearly 100 years into residential, commercial and industrial use in the heart of Angwin.”

In April, Triad Communities executive Curt Johansen said Jay Smith, owner of St. Helena’s upscale Sunshine Foods supermarket, is interested in opening a 15,000-square-foot organic food supermarket in Angwin. PUC officials reasoned the supermarket would cut traffic along Howell Mountain Road traveling to St. Helena because the market would offer a variety of goods and services.

In the meantime, PUC officials will oppose any changes to the Angwin urban bubble.

Hillary Gitelman, director of county planning, said the Save Rural Angwin proposal will be considered “just like all the other comments” received concerning the new draft general plan. Gitelman said public comments will go online sometime this week, while county public officials will receive hard copies next month.

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