The St. Helena Planning Commission has approved Beringer’s plan to reconfigure their tank farm off Pratt Avenue.
Treasury Wine Estates, Beringer’s parent company, will replace eight very large tanks with 130 smaller ones. The change will enable production to shift to more premium, high-end wines.
Production capacity will decrease slightly from 796,800 gallons to 757,000 gallons. The smaller tanks will be lower-profile than the current ones, but Beringer still agreed to enhance the surrounding landscaping in response to neighbors’ concerns.
Neighbors who spoke at Tuesday’s Planning Commission hearing said they were worried that the smaller tanks would result in more trucks entering and exiting the facility off Pratt Avenue. Neighbors said the Main/Pratt area has become extremely problematic, crowded and dangerous since work began on the Las Alcobas hotel. They say the hotel seems to lack adequate employee parking, causing employees and construction workers to park in the surrounding area and use what neighbors describe as a dangerous crosswalk across Main Street.
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However, Beringer officials and city planners said there was no reason to believe the reconfigured tanks would cause substantially more traffic or exacerbate the problems at the intersection.
Furthermore, City Attorney Tom Brown and Planning Director Noah Housh said the traffic issue was not within the commission’s purview because the applicant was seeking only design review for the tanks, not a use permit amendment that would trigger more extensive environmental review of traffic and other factors.
The commission approved the project, with Grace Kistner and David Knudsen voting yes and Bobbi Monnette abstaining after expressing the same traffic concerns as neighbors. Commissioner Tracy Sweeney was recused from the discussion because she works for Beringer, and Sarah Parker was absent.
The commission also approved a use permit for St. Helena Matt Cia to open a fitness center at 995 Vintage Ave.
Crush Fitness will take over some of the space currently occupied by Wine Country Cases, which is moving to Napa. The 2,600-square-foot, mostly membership-based gym will offer CrossFit-based fitness classes, boot camps and yoga classes, with some drop-ins.