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Napa loosens restrictions so business park can recruit wineries
Commerce

Napa loosens restrictions so business park can recruit wineries

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Napa Valley Commons could soon see a new type of tenant, now that the City Council has allowed wineries to set up shop throughout the entire south Napa business park.

Wineries were already allowed in a portion of the corporate park, but with the booming local wine market, the business park wanted more.

“There is a need for it,” Kory Kramer, president of the Napa Valley Commons board of directors, said this week. “Because the wine industry is so prominent in Napa Valley, owners in the Commons said they needed this.”

The decision to remove an outdated 1980s business park master plan was made by the council last week. When the park was approved in 1981, it was zoned for a combination of light industrial and commercial uses. These days, it’s home to tenants like a Mercedes auto museum, a marketing firm, an investment group, a wine storage company and the Department of Motor Vehicle’s Napa office, which is closed for construction.

City staff and business park representatives pointed out during last week’s hearing that wineries are very similar to industrial uses, which are already allowed at the 246-acre site.

“There just isn’t a huge draw for industrial or major corporate businesses to come to Napa,” said Michael Allen, an associate planner with the city. “The South Bay is a huge draw for big tech companies because they have housing and retail. Napa has limited housing and limited retail – but plenty of wineries. So allowing these companies to operate there makes perfect sense.”

While most people tend to hear ‘winery’ and think ‘vineyard’, Allen assured the council that no grape-growing would take place at the corporate-styled location.

“A lot of people cannot afford vineyards, so they buy their grapes already crushed and the make their own blends,” Allen said. “Wine production is industrial. It’s basically food production, but the way the 1980s code was written, it didn’t allow those activities throughout the site. Now it does.”

Kramer, who is also the chief investment officer for Pacific Hospitality Group, which owns the nearby Meritage Resort, said the move is part of the site’s reinvention.

“When the business park was built, the original developer was hoping to attract high-tech companies, like Silicon Valley,” he said. “But that’s never materialized for a variety of reasons. So we have adjusted to what the market needs, which is more space for wine-related uses.”

Tenants will also be allowed to have secondary activities on site, such as tasting rooms and retail, as long as they obtain permits. Allen said that the accompanying uses will be limited to 20 percent of a tenant’s overall space, and will be required to apply to the city for permits.

The move will allow hotel-related development on a 9.3-acre site adjacent to the Meritage Resort. Kramer said the hotel is looking to develop the parcel with hotel-related uses that could include more guest rooms, conference space, a spa and possibly a small vineyard which would require new approvals.

“At some point, the hotel will bring a plan to the city, but nothing has been submitted yet and it will not include strip malls or shopping centers,” he said.

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