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Land Use

Napa Airport Commission wary about Oat Hill housing

Oat Hill

A view of Oat Hill in American Canyon from near Highway 29. Plans to put multifamily homes on the hill are clashing with policies to protect Napa County Airport.

A proposal to create housing on Oat Hill in American Canyon is colliding with the Napa County Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan.

R.H. Hess Development wants to build 291 multifamily homes on this 250-foot-high city landmark about 1.5 miles from the airport. But 51 of the homes would be within an airport compatibility zone where homes are prohibited.

For the Airport Land Use Commission on Wednesday, the decision proved to be straightforward. Members said some of the proposed homes are in "Zone D," so they had to find the proposed project inconsistent with the plan.

“I know in American Canyon having diversified housing is incredibly important,” Commissioner Megan Dameron said. “We don’t have condos, we basically have apartments and single-family homes. I certainly recognize how important this project is, to have condos, especially something for working force families.”

She and other commissioners expressed hope the city and Hess would come back with a modified application addressing Zone D and other issues.

But that may not be American Canyon’s course. City Community Development Director Brent Cooper after the meeting said the matter will go to the City Council. The City Council can override the commission’s inconsistency finding with a four-fifths vote.

The Airport Land Use Commission, while making consistency findings, doesn't approve or disapprove proposed projects. 

American Canyon has taken a different view from the Airport Land Use Commission on the proposed Oat Hill development. A project environmental report found the homes wouldn’t be under flight paths for normal operations and wouldn’t obstruct flight paths.

The city and Hess officials made the argument that the Napa County Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan — last updated in 1999 — is outdated. They said that the part of the proposed Hess project in Zone D shouldn’t be in Zone D.

Several commissioners said they were open to revisiting and updating the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan.

R.H. Hess Development wants to build 291 multifamily homes in two areas of Oat Hill. One parcel at the base of the hill would have 85 units in five three-story multifamily buildings. This part of the development is outside of Zone D.

Another parcel further up the hill would have 206 units in 13 three-story, multifamily buildings. Of these, 51 are in Zone D.

On March 25, the city Planning Commission recommended the City Council adopt an environmental study for the project, make the necessary general plan amendments to allow housing, and approve the project. The City Council has yet to hear the matter.

There have been past development proposals for Oat Hill. In 2006, the focus was on homes. In 2009, the idea came up for hilltop wineries. In 2012, a proposal was for 189 apartments.

Rick Hess came to the American Canyon City Council in 2019 to gauge council interest in a new Oat Hill housing proposal. The council voted that residential in concept is the best use for the land.

Oscar Ortiz on Tuesday took his oath to become the next Napa County sheriff on June 22.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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