Carneros Resort and Spa and Napa County are close to finalizing a deal to address the resort’s dependence on trucked-in water, the county’s desire for a relocated Carneros fire station and a host of resort changes.
The resort is supposed to rely solely on groundwater, but because of quality and quantity problems for years has also trucked in water from city of Napa fire hydrants. This has been a sore point with the county.
Meanwhile, the resort owners want to do such things as relocate the Boon Fly Cafe and The Market and build two pickleball courts, though not add any rooms or grow the resort.
What is intended to be a comprehensive solution landed before the Napa County Planning Commission on Wednesday. The commission endorsed the Carneros Resort and Spa package and forwarded it to the county Board of Supervisors.
“After five years of work, I think we have all the stars aligned to accomplish a win-win solution,” Greg Flynn of Carneros Resort and Spa told the commission.
Present-day ownership bought the resort several years ago when the water problems already existed, Flynn said. It has worked with the county to find solutions, he added.
Carneros Resort and Spa has a long, controversial and complicated history. Planning Commission Chairwoman Joelle Gallagher said the county has to work out the existing challenges.
“Would this be approved today?” Gallagher said. “No. But this is what we have, so we’re trying to figure out how to serve the resort and residents out there.”
Carneros Resort and Spa – formerly the Carneros Inn – is located on 28 acres at 4048 Sonoma Highway amid the southern county’s Carneros wine country. It has such features as a 96 cottages and suites, a swimming pool, 24 single-family homes and 17 shared-ownership homes.
The previously announced solution to the water problem is for the resort to pipe in city of Napa water to the rural location. The resort will install and maintain a half-mile-long pipe along Old Sonoma Road that connects to an existing line owned by the Congress Valley Water District. It will cease using and cap its well.
Piping city water to rural, agricultural areas often raises concerns of spurring growth, given that development is no longer limited by groundwater supplies. County officials said the resort will be unable to transfer water rights, the amount of city water will be limited to about 43 acre-feet annually and agricultural watershed zoning will keep nearby areas in farming.
“We’re sizing the pipe so it can only serve our needs,” Flynn told commissioners. “It’s a private line, so no one can tap into it.”
Approvals recommended by the Planning Commission would allow Carneros Resort and Spa to do a number of things. Among them:
- Relocate the main entryway and install a new entry structure.
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- Replace the existing Old Sonoma Road wooden fence with a decorative masonry wall.
- Relocate the Boon Fly Cafe to The Market location and relocate The Market to existing office space.
- Relocate six cottages.
- Add two pickleball courts.
- Improve the resort’s swimming pool.
A proposed 10-year, 129-page development agreement would also leave Carneros Resort and Spa with obligations. The resort would pay the county $100,000 for affordable housing, give the county land near Old Sonoma Road to relocate a nearby fire station and waive rights to build any new residential or hotel units.
County Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison said the clause for no growth is for clarity. The resort resulted from a patchwork of approvals over decades. This way, no one can argue there are further growth entitlements from the past.
“That’s just a way of ensuring the resort that’s there now is as big as it will ever get,” Morrison said.
This is only the latest chapter in the Carneros Resort and Spa property’s tangled history. Two parcels – called by the county the Carneros Inn parcel and the Carneros Lodge parcel – are involved.
Napa County issued its first permit for the Carneros Inn parcel in 1961, when it approved a mobile home park on land zoned for commercial uses. The property also had a restaurant that eventually turned into the Boon Fly Cafe, a county report said.
In 1990, amid fears by some residents that the agricultural Carneros area was being urbanized, the Board of Supervisors by a 3-2 vote approved a 96-space recreational vehicle park on the site. Owner John Zopfi never realized his vision for the land.
Meanwhile, the county in 1972 approved a storage yard for trailers, mobile homes, recreational vehicles and campers on the Carneros Lodge parcel.
By 1999, the Carneros Inn and Carneros Lodge parcels had the same owner. Developer Keith Rogal and investment partners wanted to turn the hodgepodge of boat storage and other development over the decades into a resort with guest cottages, lodges, meeting room spaces and other features.
The county approved the Carneros Inn project in 2002 and the resort opened in 2003. The previous approval for 96 recreational vehicle spaces became the basis for the resort’s cottage hotel units, given that the cottages have axles. Approvals for mobile homes was the basis for the residences.