Last year we set out to interview all five members of the Napa County Board of Supervisors in hopes of hearing their perspectives, sharing with them the values that are dear to us Upvalley, and encouraging collaboration among the county and its five city governments.
We accomplished our mission last week by meeting with Supervisor Belia Ramos, the American Canyon-based representative of District 5.
If the words “American Canyon” lead you to imagine a growth-happy supervisor with little interest in the Ag Preserve, you’re dead wrong. Ramos is a passionate, articulate and thoughtful defender of the Ag Preserve, sustainability and our quality of life – which, as she reminded us, includes matters like housing and job opportunities and food security.
Ramos grew up on Inglewood Avenue in St. Helena and at Berryessa Estates, so she understands our rural values. The Ag Preserve is as big today as it’s ever going to be, she noted – it can only get smaller from here on out, and any alterations to it must be done with the utmost care and planning.
She didn’t rule out the removal of ag land where agriculture is no longer viable, citing a struggling downvalley vineyard that’s subject to saltwater intrusion and relies on recycled water for irrigation.
However, when we brought up the city of St. Helena’s proposal of “study areas” at Meadowood and south of the city limits – a potential prelude to annexation – she was extremely skeptical. She argued forcefully that absent an intensification in use, the city lacks a legitimate policy basis for annexation – and if the city is contemplating growth, such as housing, it should first look to infill sites on Madrona, Crane and Spring. (The city’s real motivation in annexing those properties, of course, is financial.)
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This is a critical time for the Board of Supervisors, which has just adopted a strategic plan and is setting out to resolve the issues that were raised by Measure C.
That process starts with a workshop at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, at the Board of Supervisors Chambers at 1195 Third St. in Napa. Expect a frank discussion of tree canopy regulations, reservoirs and watersheds, stream setbacks, and renewable energy. Ramos hopes the meeting will lead to potential changes in conservation regulations that will leave everybody a little unhappy – which she said is the sign of a true compromise.
Ramos is adamant that Napa County start being fully sustainable. For example, she was extremely critical of the practice of treating winery wastewater at East Bay Municipal Utility District. That “hold-and-haul” method generates massive traffic (12,000 truck trips in 2012) and greenhouse gas emissions and, since it relies on the services of an outside agency, it’s not truly sustainable for Napa County, Ramos said.
We’re lucky to have such a conservation-oriented supervisor based in American Canyon. In fact, Supervisors Ramos, Diane Dillon, Ryan Gregory, Alfredo Pedroza and Brad Wagenknecht each showed their strengths during our interviews.
This is a good team of supervisors, and they will need to be at their best on Jan. 29 and throughout this post-Measure C reckoning. Our quality of life is on the line.