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Massive resort development planned in southern Lake County

Massive resort development planned in southern Lake County

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A massive international resort with numerous hotels, restaurants, residential units and commercial space is being planned for a part of 16,000 acres in southeastern Lake County, some 24 miles – and 40 minutes – from Calistoga.

The Lake County Community Development Department is expected to release a final draft environmental impact report for the Guenoc Valley Mixed Use Commercial Development Project by 5 p.m., Friday, June 12.

Mark Roberts, principal planner and division manager for the department, said a public hearing on the project will be before the Lake County Planning Commission on June 18-19. During that public hearing, Roberts said the applicants, consultants and county staff will discuss the environmental report and present an overview of the project. That is also when public comments may be presented.

Once the planning commission ends the public hearing, it will make its recommendation to the board of supervisors, which will schedule the project “as soon as possible,” Roberts said.

After the draft environmental report was released in February, the Department of Community Development held an informational meeting in March and has received comments on the environmental report.

The project applicant is seeking a General Plan Amendment and rezoning. The applicant is Lotusland Investment Group, based in Hong Kong, San Francisco and Guenoc Valley, according to its website. Development partners are Adrain Zecha and Jonathan Breene. The project is composed of 49 parcels totaling 25 square miles at 22000 Butts Canyon Road in Middletown.

According to the Lotusland website, the project is “poised to become one of the preeminent luxury resort communities in the world.”

The 728-page draft environmental report outlines the five-phase project, which includes the development of up to 400 hotel rooms, 450 resort residential units, 1,400 residential estates and 500 workforce co-housing units. The first phase is expected to take 10 years to build. It will include:

- Five boutique hotels with a combined total of 127 hotel units and 141 resort residential units;

- 401 residential estate villas;

- Up to 100 workforce co-housing bedroom units;

- Resort amenities, including outdoor entertainment area, spa and wellness amenities, sports fields, equestrian area, golf course and practice facility, camping area and 865,395 square feet of commercial and retail facilities;

- Agricultural production (two wineries) and support facilities;

- Essential accessory facilities, including a hotel with 50 temporary workforce hotel units, emergency response and fire center, float plane dock and helipads;

- Accessory uses and supporting infrastructure.

According to the draft environmental report, the project is organized into individual, clustered resort communities “that preserve surrounding open space and agricultural cultivation.” The first phase includes eight communities, each of which generally consists of “clusters of residential housing around the hotels, surrounded by open space, the existing vineyards and outdoor recreation facilities.”

The first phase also includes rezoning a 12.75-acre undeveloped site in Middletown for workforce housing and approval of an off-site well site near the intersection of Highway 29 and Butts Canyon Road and water supply pipeline location.

The environmental report notes that the Guenoc Ranch property is approximately 22,000 acres, both in Lake and Napa counties. In that property, but not included as part of the Guenoc Valley Mixed-Use Planned Development Project, are the historic 19th-century estate of famed actress Lillie Langtry, who bought her property in 1888. Her estate includes her historic home and the adjacent Langtry Estates winery.

Butts Canyon Road was the first road into Lake County in 1850, was used as an emigrant route by the U.S. Army in 1854 and was constructed between 1860-62 by Napa and Lake counties, according to a historical marker.

Lotusland Investment Holdings Inc. bought 16,000 acres of the Guenoc Ranch property in 2016, a year after portions of the property were burned in the Valley Fire.

The draft environmental report notes the Lake County Economic Development Plan 2016 outlines where “Lake County should focus its efforts to maintain a resilient economy and rebuild due to three 2015 wildfires,” which “burned approximately 171,000 acres of wildland, forest, and residential property, and resulted in the cumulative loss of 1,329 homes and damage of over 70 commercial properties.”

The draft environmental report notes the majority of the site is used for cattle and sheep grazing, although approximately 990 acres have been planted in vineyards and another 970 acres have been leased for potential vineyard expansion.

A complete copy of the draft environmental report is available on the Community Development Department’s link of Lake County’s website, lakecountyca.gov.

You may reach David Stoneberg at 967-6800 or editor@sthelenastar.com

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star and The Weekly Calistogan.

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