Napa County transportation leaders will take an extra step before building a bus maintenance yard in an effort to avoid a legal confrontation with the planned Montalcino resort, also known as The Resort at Napa.
The proposed VINE bus yard is targeted for 8 acres on Sheehy Court in the county airport industrial area. Several nearby property owners, including the resort-to-be, are wary about having a bus yard as a neighbor for fear of noise, fumes and other perceived problems.
In December, the Napa Valley Transportation Authority Board of Directors approved an initial environmental report called a mitigated negative declaration for the bus yard. Now it has decided to spend $52,000 to do a more detailed environmental impact report.
“The people who own the resort made a request to do an environmental document,” NVTA Executive Director Kate Miller said.
Attorneys representing the resort last year said that, should the NVTA fail to take action, the resort owners would ask the courts to order the agency to do further environmental work. Attorney Kevin Teague said Tuesday resort owners think an environmental impact report will show a bus yard is incompatible with either the hotel or the rest of the industrial park.
In addition, the Montalcino resort owners have offered to find an alternative site for the bus yard. Miller said on Tuesday that they have yet to show the agency any property.
“I do believe they are negotiating in good faith,” Miller said.
But the NVTA spent more than two years finding the Sheehy Court site in a county where developable land is scarce. It bought the land last year for $2.6 million and wants to have a new bus yard operating in 2020.
Teague expressed confidence that the private sector can find that elusive, alternative site.
“It’s still confidential at this point, but we’ve identified a couple of potential sites we think fits the NVTA better than this site and wouldn’t have disputes from us or any other neighbor,” Teague said.
Miller said the NVTA is willing to negotiate over a replacement property – the agency would ideally like a site closer to downtown Napa for VINE operation reasons – but that switching to a different site would cause delays. The NVTA is beholden to taxpayers and must be as efficient as possible, she said.
“My concern is this is costing the agency money … any further delays will just accelerate the cost of construction,” Miller said.
Doing the environmental impact report shouldn’t cause much of a delay, she said. The report should be completed in three to six months and the agency can release a request for engineering work at the same time.
Completion of the environmental impact report will trigger another public hearing on the bus yard project.
NVTA presently keeps its VINE buses on 2 acres at Jackson Street and Soscol Avenue in central Napa, but considers this site too small. The $31.6 million Sheeny Court project is to have an eight-bay maintenance building, 93 parking spaces for buses, an administration building and other features.
Montalcino is owned by Napa Lifestyle Holdings LLC I and II, affiliates of The Capbridge Group. Resort owners have said the bus yard appears to be located within 100 feet of the resort’s planned facilities and rooms.
The resort is to have 379 hotel rooms, a spa, a market and retail buildings and other features. It is to be built on 71 acres owned by Napa Lifestyle Holdings, with a golf course or vineyard possible on 233 acres that the resort owners lease from the Napa Sanitation District.
In a letter last year, resort owners said the initial bus yard environmental study failed to adequately address such factors as diesel fumes from the buses, the loss of Swainson’s hawk foraging habitat and compatibility with a resort.
Several other neighbors at a Dec. 21 NVTA Board meeting expressed concerns that a bus yard could cause noise and create fumes from idling buses. The project’s negative declaration found no significant impacts.
An environmental impact report under state law is to provide information to decision-makers and the public. It describes significant environmental impacts for a project, ways to minimize these impacts if possible and reasonable alternatives to a project.