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A planned wine warehouse more than twice the size of the American Canyon Wal-Mart Superstore finally won Napa County approval following a nine-month delay after a union challenged the environmental documents.

The Nova wine warehouse is to be located on 23 acres near Devlin Road in the county’s airport industrial area, officially known as Napa Valley Business Park. It is to have 391,934 square feet of warehouse space and 8,566 square feet of office space.

On Wednesday, the county Planning Commission unanimously granted its approval.

“I think this is precisely where a project like this should be going, in this area,” Commissioner Jeri Hansen said. “There’s clearly a need for it based on vacancy rates.”

Attorney Rebecca Davis on behalf of Laborers International Union of North America Local 324 said after the meeting that the union has yet to decide whether to appeal the Planning Commission decision to the Board of Supervisors. She asked the county to require an environmental impact report for the project, as opposed to a less-detailed mitigated negative declaration.

The warehouse proposal first went before the Planning Commission on July 18, 2018. Laborers International Union of North America Local 324 called for more research on how the project might affect the California red-legged frog, Swainson’s hawk and other wildlife, as well as greenhouse gas emissions and traffic.

Then-Planning Commissioner Terry Scott said at the July meeting he’s seen cases of unions using delaying tactics so they can negotiate for contracts. Davis said she was concerned about environmental issues.

Since then, the applicant has added new information to the environmental documents. No new mitigation measures or project revisions are proposed.

One issue with development in this part of the county is traffic added to nearby Highway 29, which is congested during rush hour. Caltrans estimates the highway in this area handles 44,000 to 65,000 vehicles daily.

The warehouse is to have 20 full-time and 20 part-time employees, generating an estimated 202 trips daily. The negative declaration found this to be insignificant.

Laborers International Union of North America claimed the traffic analysis should be based on warehouse floor area, not the expected number of employees, leading to an incorrect estimate. The square footage formula would require a traffic analysis for 138 employees.

Also, Davis on Wednesday told commissioners that the analysis for the project failed to adequately scrutinize cumulative impacts. The union wants a deeper look at how this project, combined with past, present and reasonably foreseeable future projects, would affect the environment.

Attorney Andrea Matarazzo on behalf of Nova Business Park, LLC disagreed. The county addressed cumulative impacts in its master plan for Napa Valley Business Park. This particular project adds no significant, incremental impacts, she said.

The union argued that the surveys for possible endangered species on the site didn’t go far enough. Commissioners disagreed.

“I think just because nothing was found doesn’t mean the analysis was done incorrectly,” Hansen said.

Bret DeMartini of Colliers International in July 2018 wrote to the county in favor of the Nova wine warehouse.

“In terms of demand, the market has never been stronger,” DeMartini wrote. “Rents are increasing and the vacancy rates are at or near all-time lows.”

Michael Glavin of Top It Off Bottling also supported the project in a July 2018 letter.

“Warehousing in south Napa is in high demand,” Glavin wrote. “With our wine customers trying to avoid the up-valley congestion, it’s becoming more difficult for them to find space.”

Commissioners Anne Cottrell, Joelle Gallagher, Hansen and Dave Whitmer voted in favor of the Nova wine warehouse. Commissioner Andrew Mazotti was absent.

At a total of 400,500 square feet, the planned Nova wine warehouse won’t be the largest in the area. For example, a warehouse in American Canyon’s Napa Logistic Center used by IKEA is 644,000 square feet.

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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.