County officials sacked consideration of an unpopular noise ordinance Tuesday after one Napa County grapegrower agreed to give up his thunderous old frost fan.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to abandon plans for increased noise regulations now that the dispute that initially triggered the discussions has been resolved.

The debate arose after San Francisco resident John Bierylo refused to replace the 50-year-old frost fan on his four-acre vineyard on Estee Avenue near Silverado Resort.

Bierylo has drawn the ire of his neighbors since he bought the property and installed the fan two years ago. From across the street, the fan blasts at an ear-splitting 97 decibels. That’s about twice as loud as 80 decibels, the high end for an average fan, according to Napa County Environmental Management Director Steve Lederer.

“The first time he turned the wind machine on, it sounded like we were actually in an air raid,” Bierylo’s neighbor Susie Mathison told the board of supervisors earlier this year.

For years now, neighbors have been trying to convince Bierylo to swap out his fan for a quieter machine. County agencies and local farming organizations have tried to broker a deal. Some even offered to replace Bierylo’s fan for free.

Yet no deal could be reached, and Bierylo stood firm under the widely accepted tenet that Napa County property owners should be able to farm their land as they please.

After a two-year stalemate, the issue reached Napa County supervisors, who considered adopting a countywide ordinance aimed at quieting Bierylo’s fan. Supervisors asked county staff in September to write up a proposal to limit frost fans on small parcels in non-agricultural areas of the unincorporated county to 85 decibels.

Because the county can’t adopt an ordinance aimed at only one property, this proposal would regulate the entire unincorporated county.

Lederer said the ordinance, if adopted, would have affected an estimated 39 properties in Napa County, eight of which have frost fans.

You have free articles remaining.

Become a Member

Local grapegrower groups quickly criticized the proposal, fearing it would unnecessarily prohibit farming techniques.

“We believe it’s a slippery slope to start down,” Napa County Farm Bureau Executive Director Sandy Elles told the board earlier this year. “It is a potential start to an erosion to a right to farm, (which is) a core principle to maintaining our agricultural viability.”

Finally, on Tuesday, with supervisors poised to vote on the noise ordinance, county staff announced that Bierylo had dumped his noisy fan.

“It appears that this issue has been resolved,” Lederer said.

Mark Pollock, Bierylo’s lawyer, confirmed that the fan will not disturb anyone near Silverado again. “My client hauled off the old fan and obtained a new, quieter fan,” he said.

With Bierylo’s fan out of the picture, the board agreed unanimously to abandon the proposed ordinance.

“This is a great conclusion and this shows what can happen when people work together,” Supervisor Bill Dodd said.

Supervisor Mark Luce agreed. “I much prefer that the community work out its issues without a regulatory standard,” he said.

Pollock said Bierylo swapped out his fan for a quieter machine in order to prevent the supervisors from adopting a countywide ordinance.

“Both my client and I felt that the ordinance that had been proposed was … a sledgehammer to slay a gnat,” Pollock said. “It was unfortunately so broad and capable of such broad application that both of us felt it would have been catastrophic for the growers in the valley. I sincerely believe that that was the one motivating factor that caused my client to purchase the new fan, because neither one of us wanted to see that ordinance enacted.”

Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments