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A plan to build small wineries near the top of Oat Hill has gained the green light from the American Canyon Planning Commission.

The commission voted unanimously May 28 to approve developer Rick Hess’ plans to build Oat Hill Wineries on 10 acres. The 56,000-square-foot building will house nine commercial condominiums of 6,000 square feet each, large enough to house an office, a tasting room and boutique wineries with production of up to 8,000 cases.

Construction on the $8 million project could start in the fall and be completed by next summer, Hess said after the vote.

American Canyon Planning Commissioner Katharine Bourassa praised the project, which will feature a hillside vineyard at the end of Hess Road. “I think it’s an outstanding project,” she said. “It looks great.”

“American Canyon needs some wineries,” said Bourassa, who co-owns a south county winery. “We’re in Napa County.”

Commissioner Chelle Castagnola was as complimentary of the project as Bourassa.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said.

The commission decided not to require Hess to underground power lines near his property, a proposal Hess opposed because of its cost. Brent Cooper, the city’s community development director, said undergrounding power lines is a standard condition routinely required from other projects, but Hess said moving the power lines underground could cost $350,000.

The Planning Commission also listened to Linda Fischer of Napa, who co-owns 22 acres on top of Oat Hill, a property that is on the market. Fischer asked that the proposed building be modified, saying it could partially block the view from her property.

Bourassa said that while she appreciates Fischer’s position, the view from one’s property is not guaranteed to remain the same.

After the meeting, Fischer said she has no plans to appeal the planning commission’s decision. She said she does not want to derail a “good project” the city’s Community Development Department and the Planning Commission want for American Canyon.

“Instead, we will hope they welcome whatever the buyer of our top and bay side parcels wishes to do,” she said in an e-mail.

Hess’ project is slated to receive water from the city of Vallejo, which already provides water to higher-elevation areas in American Canyon. Wine production waste will be hauled to East Bay Municipal Utility District’s wastewater treatment plant in Oakland. Hauling the material will be cheaper than building a filtration system, Hess said.

The commercial condos will be either for lease or for sale, Hess said.

“We’ve got a few small wineries that are interested,” he said. “We’re excited.”

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