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City of St. Helena reports progress on public works, planning projects

City of St. Helena reports progress on public works, planning projects

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City of St. Helena

The removal of the York Creek Dam, the Hunter project, and the Farmstead hotel are just a few of projects and proposals that are working their way through City Hall.

During a special meeting on Feb. 6, staff gave the City Council an update on 18 ongoing projects.

Here are some of the highlights:

Farmstead hotel

Ted Hall, owner of Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, is proposing to add a hotel near the corner of Main Street and Mills Lane.

The 65-room hotel would be made up of 10 one-story buildings. It would operate in conjunction with Farmstead restaurant. Mills would be realigned to form a four-way intersection with Main Street and Grayson Avenue.

Planning Director Noah Housh said the city is still working with Hall to finalize the project description and finish some technical studies.

The hotel would take up 6.1 acres. The remaining 3.9 acres on the property, which are zoned for agricultural use, would become an “organically certified fruit and vegetable farm,” according to a staff report.

In addition to the hotel project, Hall seeks to expand and modify Farmstead restaurant to relocate the baking operation to the Logan-Ives House, expand the restaurant’s storage space, and accommodate new events and classes, a butchery, and retail meat sales.

Housh said he doesn’t have a timeline for when the project might come up for public hearings. The project’s environmental effects will probably be analyzed through a mitigated negative declaration rather than a full environmental impact report (EIR), Housh said.

Hunter project

The 87-unit residential project at the end of Adams Street and Starr Avenue has been in the works since 2010. Consultants are working on an updated EIR and working with staff to analyze an updated proposal the applicants submitted on Feb. 1.

The application proposes 40 percent affordable housing. Councilmember Mary Koberstein said the city needs to analyze whether the plans comply with city codes that require affordable units to be dispersed throughout the project and comparable to the market-rate units in the number of bedrooms, exterior appearance, and overall quality of construction.

York Creek Dam

The newly redesigned two-phase project to remove the Upper York Creek Dam “is finally in the home stretch,” said Public Works Director Erica Ahmann Smithies.

Construction will start this year. An addendum to the project’s environmental impact report will come to the council on Feb. 26. City staff will also need to negotiate easements with Spring Mountain Vineyard to install downstream sediment traps.

The city has pledged to remove the dam, which has been deemed a barrier to fish passage. The latest design, which proposes releasing the built-up sediment into downtown sediment traps instead of trucking it away, will be much cheaper than the original plan, which was budgeted at $6.5 million.

Costs are tentatively estimated at $200,000 to install the sediment traps in Phase 1 and $1.8 million to notch the dam in Phase 2, with additional funds for long-term environmental management. A construction budget should come to the council in May.

General Plan

The city received more than 300 comments when it released the General Plan and its latest EIR late last year.

The General Plan and its draft Final EIR, which includes responses to the comments, is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission on March 19, and to the City Council on May 28 or June 11.

Downtown restroom

Construction bids to build a restroom in the city parking lot near Money Way keep coming in well over budget.

The council will be presented with several options on Feb. 26: award a bid that exceeds the budget, “value-engineer” the plans to reduce the cost, or consider a kit that could be installed at a cheaper cost.

Downtown streetscape

Construction isn’t scheduled to start until spring 2021, but the city is already convening a steering committee and planning public engagement sessions aimed at developing a design that reflects the community’s wishes.

The project will include not only new sidewalks but directional signs, benches, trash receptacles, parking and possible alley improvements.

The project will stretch from the Sulphur Creek bridge to City Hall and from Oak Avenue to Railroad Avenue.

Wastewater treatment plant upgrades

The city is on track to meet a 2023 deadline to bring the plant into compliance with more stringent treatment standards. The city is considering hiring a company to both design and build the upgrades.

Hunt Avenue sidewalk

The city is working on plans to build a continuous sidewalk on the south side of Hunt Avenue from Monte Vista to June Lane, upgraded curb ramps as far as Edwards Street, a crosswalk leading to Safeway, and upgraded underground utilities.

The project is scheduled to go out to bid in March and be finished this summer.

Main/Pratt striping

The city wants to move the red no-parking curb from the east side of Main Street to the west side just south of Pratt Avenue, which would once again allow parking on the east side. The left turn lane from Pratt would have to be adjusted.

Public Works reorganization

City Manager Mark Prestwich plans to reorganize the Public Works Department so that field operations will report to an assistant public works director, freeing up time for Public Works Director Erica Ahmann Smithies – the city’s only licensed civil engineer – to devote to engineering work.

Prestwich is working through the details with the St. Helena Employees Association before presenting the plan to the council on Feb. 26.

Assistant to city manager

Prestwich wants to hire an assistant to the city manager to help write grants, write staff reports, assist various city departments, work toward the city’s goals concerning youth and housing, and gain experience in budgeting, finance and human resources.

The “superanalyst” position could be a stepping stone toward a higher city office.

Compensation study

The city is conducting a compensation and classification study to determine where its salaries and benefits stand compared with other cities.

Planning staff

The Planning Department hasn’t been able to recruit a planner to replace the part-time contract planner who left the city in September. With the department short-handed, Planning Director Housh asked the public to be patient while the department juggles various projects and tries to get back to full strength.

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