AmCan Ruins

The former Standard Portland Cement Co. factory will be a key part of the new town center under the proposed Watson Ranch project, which has been approved by the Napa County Airport Land Use Commission.

AMERICAN CANYON — Developers of the proposed Watson Ranch residential and commercial project have agreed to contribute toward the construction of a new middle school in American Canyon.

The school funding was among several important changes surrounding Watson Ranch that were discussed at a special City Council meeting Monday evening.

In addition to building 1,250 new homes, the project calls for creating a town center called the Napa Valley Ruins and Gardens, where the cement factory currently exists.

The developer had earlier proposed building a 100-room hotel as part of the town center.

Now, the plans calls for establishing a 200-room luxury hotel, similar to the Carneros Inn, whose average room rate would be $350 a night.

City Manager Dana Shigley said the expanded hotel is a good idea because it will generate more tax revenues for the city.

The new hotel proposal “makes it [the project] financially viable for the city,” said Shigley. “It will improve the situation significantly,” particularly if it gets built during one of the earlier phases of the project, she added.

Developer Terry McGrath told the council and a packed audience of residents that the project would contribute $27 million to education, with $8 million going to the Napa Valley Unified School District to help construct a new middle school next to American Canyon High School.

Parents have been clamoring for a second middle school, noting that American Canyon Middle School is overcrowded with more than a thousand students.

“We’re excited about this plan for obvious reasons,” said Don Evans, NVUSD’s head of school construction.

Evans said the district has spent three years negotiating with Watson Ranch developers to gain their support for new schools in American Canyon.

The developers had previously said they would help fund the construction of a new elementary school in the city to educate children living in Watson Ranch, slated for the east side of town near the ruins of the old cement factory.

McGrath said Monday that the project would pay for two-thirds of the cost of building the proposed Watson Ranch Elementary, which will require more than $21 million, according to the school district.

The development would provide $8 million of the $37 million needed for the new middle school.

McGrath explained the project would contribute less toward the middle school than the new elementary because Watson Ranch homes are expected to produce more kindergarten-fifth-grade students.

About 400 students from Watson Ranch will attend the new elementary school, according to McGrath, while about 160 students are expected to come out of the new development and attend the new middle school, whose population will range from 600-800 students, according to Evans.

Evans said the developers agreed to provide a 10-acre site for the elementary school. “We hung in there and got that,” he said.

The school district already owns land adjacent to ACHS to build the new middle school.

“We believe the developer has stepped up and worked with us,” said Evans, who said the two sides still must agree on the formal language of a funding agreement.

School funding was just one of numerous aspects of the Watson Ranch project discussed during the nearly four-hour meeting at City Hall.

Watson Ranch will also involve building or extending certain roads in the city.

John Wilbanks, a city planner working on the project, informed council members that the developers have proposed extending Rio Del Mar, which currently terminates along the west side of Highway 29, eastward so it would connect with a proposed northern extension of Newell Drive into Watson Ranch.

The project had previously discussed extending South Napa Junction Road into Watson Ranch to facilitate transportation into and out of the project.

Developers and city staff also examined the alternative of extending Eucalyptus Drive across Highway 29 and eastward into the development.

But both sides decided that extending Rio Del Mar was a better option than either South Napa Junction Road or Eucalyptus Drive.

Taking Rio Del Mar into the east side of town, however, will mean crossing the north-south railroad tracks running through American Canyon.

Wilbanks said the two sides decided it would be best to go under the tracks, instead of building an overpass.

The meeting did not discuss the results of water and traffic studies for the project. Wilbanks said those parts of the plan would be released publicly when the project issues its environmental impact report, which is slated for early February.

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