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City of St. Helena

The city of St. Helena wants Napa County to create a 500-foot buffer zone around municipal reservoirs like Bell Canyon.

The City Council directed City Manager Mark Prestwich on Tuesday to write a letter to the county requesting the setback and encouraging a joint watershed study between the city of St. Helena and the county, similar to the one the county and the city of Napa have undertaken.

The council’s recommendation comes as the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors consider new regulations to protect trees and watersheds and limit hillside vineyard development, in the wake of the unsuccessful Measure C.

A proposal under discussion at the county level includes a minimum 200-foot buffer around city reservoirs. Public Works Director Erica Ahmann Smithies said the city of Napa is recommending a 500-foot buffer, and the Napa Valley Register has reported that Calistoga is recommending at least 500 feet.

Based on conditions at Bell Canyon Reservoir, 200 feet is “nothing” when it comes to encroaching on the watershed, Smithies said.

“There’s been no baseline study on the long-term effect of all these vineyards converting above our watersheds,” Smithies said. “We need to be very conservative and protective of our municipal watershed.”

June 4 RSO referendum

In other action Tuesday, the council called for a special election on June 4 to determine the future of rent stabilization at Vineyard Valley Mobile Home Park.

The council adopted a rent stabilization ordinance (RSO) in November that would give Vineyard Valley residents the choice of entering a short-term lease that would be subject to rent stabilization or a long-term lease that would be subject to the park’s regular increases. Rent increases for residents subject to rent stabilization would be tied to changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The ordinance was put on hold after opponents gathered enough signatures to force the council to either repeal the ordinance or put it on the ballot. The council chose to go ahead with an election.

City goals

The council gave staff direction on the city’s workplan, which lays out the city’s goals and objectives for 2019 and beyond.

City Manager Mark Prestwich presented a draft workplan with five overarching goals and 51 specific objectives, color-coded by priority: green for items that were previously directed by the council and are already “in motion,” blue for new items added during the council’s Feb. 4 goal-setting session, yellow for lower-priority items, and red for items that are recommended for the 2020 workplan.

Prestwich will come back to the council on March 12 with an updated draft based on the council’s recommendations.

Downtown restrooms

The city rejected all bids to build a public restroom on Money Way and told staff instead to investigate a modular or kit restroom that could be installed this summer on the same site, on a temporary basis and at a lower cost.

The city put the project out to bid twice but kept getting bids that far exceeded the city’s budget of $296,000.

The consultants who are working on the city’s streetscape project will take another look at the restroom project, evaluate its proposed location, and consider alternative sites like the Carnegie Building.

Bond refinancing

The council approved a staff proposal to refinance the city’s 2006 water bonds. The move will save the city $750,199 over the life of the bonds, which mature in 2032.

Spring Mountain Road

The council directed staff to add new traffic signs, speed-monitoring signs, striping, and a lighted crosswalk at the intersection of Spring Mountain Road and Spring Mountain Court, in an effort to calm down traffic.

There’s currently a two-way stop sign at the three-way intersection. The council agreed not to install a third stop sign for northbound traffic on Spring Mountain Road.

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St. Helena Reporter

Jesse has been a reporter for the St. Helena Star since 2006.