Napa County supervisors decided Tuesday they needed more time to finish an appeal hearing involving the proposed Woolls Ranch Winery in the Mount Veeder area.
Supervisors spent more than one-and-a-half hours on the hearing, and had heard only from county staff, a water consultant and Woolls Ranch Winery representatives. The appellant and a couple dozen people in the audience wanted to speak.
At 12:15 p.m., with another afternoon meeting looming, supervisors agreed to continue the hearing. They quickly found setting a date when the entire board will be present to be a problem, with various supervisors scheduled to go to a California State Association of Counties meeting and a wine conference in Argentina and facing other commitments.
After a 15-minute discussion, supervisors decided to resume the hearing at 9 a.m. Nov. 22 – a Saturday. The meeting will be at the county’s south campus, 2741 Napa Valley Corporate Drive.
The Woolls Ranch Winery is to be located on 236 acres at 1032 Mount Veeder Road, near the intersection with Redwood Road. This is rugged terrain in the Mayacamas Mountains west of the city of Napa. The winery would be able to produce up to 50,000 gallons of wine annually and hold various events and tasting and tours by appointment.
Patricia Simpson filed an appeal of the Nov. 6, 2013 Planning Commission approval for the winery. That leaves the decision up to the county Board of Supervisors. The board previously continued the hearing on Feb. 25, May 20 and June 10 and a new groundwater study has been done.
Among several issues, Simpson’s appeal mentions that one of two springs that is used for residential water on her property ran dry. This happened after the Woolls Ranch drilled wells for 32 acres of vineyards, the appeal says.
During Tuesday’s abbreviated hearing, supervisors heard about the new water study completed in August by consultant Luhdorff & Scalmanini. This study finds that the overall groundwater supply on the property is adequate to support the winery and existing uses. It also recommends monitoring and other steps to address some possible, isolated water problems.
Paul Woolls addressed the board with his wife, Betty, standing nearby. The Woolls own the O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery on Howell Mountain east of St. Helena.
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“We Hoosiers like to believe we are good neighbors,” said Woolls, who noted that he came from Indiana.
He wants to make Mount Veeder wines on Mount Veeder so he doesn’t have to move grapes, he said. He has tried to address neighbors’ concerns, he said.
“We’re trying to create an asset to the valley and make the valley a better place,” he said.
Among the proposal’s critics is the Mount Veeder Stewardship Council. In a letter, the group said the proposed winery would have too many visitors, have an unsafe driveway and have well water with substandard water quality that wouldn’t support healthy vine growth.
The council also brought up the issue of cumulative impacts of area wineries on traffic, water, air quality and quality of life.
“At what point does the county reach a level of saturation of wineries?” said the letter by council President Gary Margadant.
Woolls acknowledged his project has detractors, among them the Mount Veeder Stewardship Council.
“The Stewardship Council, I think, has become a neighbor that says ‘no’ to everything,” Woolls told the supervisors.
When the hearing resumes on Nov. 22, project opponents will have their chance to address the Supervisors.