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City of St. Helena

The St. Helena City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday expressing “significant concerns” about the proposed overhaul of the former Vineland Vista Mobile Home Park and suggesting that the property be annexed into the city limits.

The resolution summarizes the criticisms the council posed on June 12 about the project, which requests city water. It will be sent to the county along with a letter requesting more details about the project, which was submitted as a “minor modification” but is referred to as a “hotel” on two pages of the plans.

“In my mind, a hotel project is not a mobile home park,” Mayor Alan Galbraith said.

The former park just south of the city limits contains 18 spaces for mobile homes and recreational vehicles, plus four permanent buildings that have historically contained rental apartments. Owner Kathryn Hall wants to convert the four “stick-built” units into mobile home spaces so that they can accommodate modern manufactured homes.

Hall and her lawyer Jeff Dodd told the Star last week that the project might include short-term overnight lodging, but the details are still being worked out. They emphasized that the application is accompanied by plans to donate a 2-acre parcel behind Dean & DeLuca for farmworker housing.

According to the resolution, the drawings submitted to the county and forwarded to the city “show that the intended use is for a hotel and not for residential use in a mobile home park.” The plans propose a large pool, concierge space, event pavilion, event lawn and other amenities commonly associated with hotels.

The resolution mentions environmental impacts such as “increased traffic volumes, increased water use, aesthetic impacts, impacts to the adjacent agricultural uses and concerns over the environmental impacts of any potential septic use.”

The resolution claims that the project exceeds the limits of a “minor modification” and should be treated as the expansion of a “legal non-conforming land use” due to a subsequent county ordinance that established a 20-acre minimum lot size for mobile home parks.

When the owners forced the park’s tenants to leave several years ago and stopped using the property’s city water connection, they abandoned the site’s historic use, the resolution states. Therefore any new environmental impact should be compared to “the current use and development occurring on the project site,” which is basically nothing, the resolution states.

Mayor Alan Galbraith quoted a letter from Dodd arguing that the city is legally required to continue providing water to the park “without any limits to the amount of water used.”

“I do not personally accept that statement on its face,” Galbraith said. “He may be right, but before I would commit to such a statement I would want a thorough legal analysis by our counsel.”

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Because of the “significant challenges” involved in developing the project in the county, “it is recommended that the Owner pursue annexation to the City of St. Helena to address these challenges and reduce the environmental impacts identified above,” the resolution states.

The application includes a development agreement that will have to go before the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. No county hearings are anticipated until September at the earliest.

Other action

In other action at Tuesday’s meeting, the council:

  • Rejected an appeal by Green Biotics after the Planning Commission denied the business’ use permit application to open a store at 1309 Main St., previously occupied by Gathered.

The commission ruled that Green Biotics is a formula business, a classification that is restricted but not prohibited by city code. Commissioners also raised concerns about the business’ sales tactics and other locations’ poor ratings from the Better Business Bureau and Yelp reviewers.

Councilmembers unanimously denied the applicants’ appeal, agreeing that the proposal is a formula business and finding no compelling reasons to overturn the commission’s ruling.

  • Agreed to place a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot that would increase St. Helena’s transient occupancy tax (TOT) on hotel visits by 1 percent to raise money for housing.
  • Reappointed Tom Vence and Glenn Smith to the Active Transportation & Sustainability Committee. There are still three vacancies on the committee.
  • Appointed Emily Armstead, Rebecca Martin, Susan Swan and Skip Lane to the St. Helena Public Library Board of Trustees.
  • Reappointed Donna Hinds and Noelle Strouss to the Parks and Recreation Commission. There is still one vacancy on the commission.
  • Awarded a $398,705 contract to Argonaut Constructors, which submitted the lowest bid to repave El Bonita Avenue, El Bonita Circle, La Quinta Way and Kennedy Court.

The contractor also will replace 200 feet of sidewalk along Highway 29 south of Charter Oak Avenue that was removed by Caltrans during the Highway 29 Channelization Project and never replaced. The city expects to be reimbursed $70,000 by Caltrans for the sidewalk work.

  • Approved a $210,000 contract with the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce for marketing efforts and community events.
  • Extended City Manager Mark Prestwich’s contract by one year to June 2023 and awarded him a 3.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment, for an annual base salary of $196,526.
  • Awarded a 3.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment to firefighters, 6.5 percent to the fire marshal, and an additional 3 percent to the fire chief for a total of 6.5 percent. The increases were included in the 2018-2019 budget adopted on June 12.
  • Adopted an ordinance banning consumer fireworks in St. Helena.
  • Approved a $135,670 contract with AAA Concrete Construction to upgrade curb ramps at Railroad/Fulton, Railroad/Adams, Railroad/Hunt, Adams/Library, Grayson/North Crane, and Grayson in front of the St. Helena Primary School.
  • Approved a $128,779 contract with MarinIT for information technology services, systems upgrades, cloud backup services and software licenses.
  • Increased the city’s contract with M-Group for professional planning services by $120,000.
  • Introduced an ordinance banning the use of electronic cigarettes in city parks and within 20 feet of public buildings.
  • Approved a five-year raw water use agreement with Spring Mountain Vineyard for water from the Lower Reservoir.

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