The St. Helena City Council has unanimously approved the addition of lodging at the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch property.
The council voted 5-0 Tuesday in favor of the Hall family’s plan to add 65 hotel rooms to the south St. Helena property.
The applicants say adding lodging to an existing hospitality property will have less impact on the community than building a new hotel from scratch. And with nightly rates averaging $967, they say the hotel will generate $2.6 million a year in taxes for the city and attract customers for downtown businesses.
Councilmember Anna Chouteau praised the project’s commitment to water conservation and sensitivity to climate change, and said it will be “great for the downtown.”
“There’s so much about this project that’s positive for St. Helena,” she said. “Approving it tonight is going to show our community at a really hard time that there are really good things to look forward to.”
The hotel will be based on the same principles of sustainability, agriculture and farm-to-table dining as Farmstead restaurant.
Mayor Geoff Ellsworth said the project “sets a very high bar” and praised the development agreement negotiated by city staff along with Councilmembers David Knudsen and Mary Koberstein.
The development agreement requires the developers to install the first segment in a network of “purple pipe” delivering recycled water from an upgraded wastewater treatment plant to the lawns and playfields on Grayson and Crane.
Once completed, the purple pipe network will save more than twice as much city water as the hotel will use, according to city staff.
If the wastewater treatment plant is not providing tertiary-treated water to Crane Park by November 2022, the applicants will have to find another way to comply with the city’s water neutrality policy.
As St. Helena enters the world of recycled water, the hotel will serve as a “scouting project to help model and map how we’re going to do this,” Ellsworth said.
The development agreement also calls for the applicants to pay $3.2 million in affordable housing fees, with $1 million set aside for Our Town St. Helena to buy the nearby Phelps property and build an affordable housing project.
“The housing element of this is really critical and innovative,” Ellsworth said.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the project on Sept. 17. Commissioners ruled that the project’s mitigated negative declaration – a document that’s less extensive than a full environmental impact report – adequately evaluates its impact in terms of water, housing, traffic and other factors.
The hotel could open by the end of 2022.
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You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or email@example.com.