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City of St. Helena

Heavy opposition from neighbors convinced the St. Helena Planning Commission on Tuesday to reject an application for a short-term rental on Kearney Street.

Eric and Erica Sklar applied for a short-term rental permit for their house at 1610 Kearney St. Erica Sklar told the commission that renters would be vetted to ensure that “they will respect our home, our belongings and our neighborhood.”

The residents of at least nine nearby homes wrote letters opposing the permit, citing concerns about safety, noise, traffic and limited parking in the neighborhood, which is close to St. Helena Elementary School and RLS Middle School. Six neighbors spoke against the project during Tuesday’s hearing.

“It just doesn’t feel right to have a hotel on the corner where my children play,” said Dagan Janev, who lives a few doors down.

A few letters also mentioned Eric Sklar’s involvement in Napa Valley Fumé, a marijuana business.

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The level of opposition convinced the commission to deny the Sklars’ application with a 3-0 vote.

“I just think we need to listen to the neighborhood in this case,” said Commissioner Bobbi Monnette, adding that the city should reevaluate its short-term rental ordinance.

In other action, the commission recommended that the City Council adopt changes to the city’s zoning code that would broaden the types of businesses that can operate in the downtown and service-commercial zones without a use permit.

The changes, which the commission first reviewed in March, would add clothing stores, bakeries, furniture stores and ice cream shops to the list of “permitted uses” that don’t require a use permit. It also creates broad new categories for “General Retail” and “Office use,” which would also be considered permitted uses.

The current list of permitted and conditional uses dates back to the 1993 General Plan and includes inconsistencies, outdated language involving video rental stores, and questionable policies such as allowing a “tobacconist” to operate without a use permit.

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(Editor’s note: Eric Sklar’s Napa Valley Fumé has no connection with the restaurant Fumé Bistro in north Napa.)