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Napa County's post-Measure C debate moving to Planning Commission

Napa County's post-Measure C debate moving to Planning Commission


Napa County’s quest to update its watershed and oak woodlands protections in the wake of Measure C battles is scheduled to move to the county Planning Commission on Feb. 20.

If Tuesday’s county Board of Supervisors meeting is any indication, the Planning Commission is in for a marathon. The Board meeting lasted about six hours and included more than 60 public speakers with varying viewpoints.

Supervisors set parameters for the Planning Commission to explore in detail. Among other things, they talked about requiring development in the unincorporated areas to preserve 70 percent of the tree canopy and mitigate for cleared woodlands at a 3-1 ratio. They wanted to ban most development on slopes of 30 percent or greater.

“I think this provides our Planning Commission with plenty of work to do and some freedom to see how it can work,” Board of Supervisors chairman Ryan Gregory said.

Then a proposed ordinance would go back to the Board of Supervisors for final action, perhaps as soon as March 19.

The Measure C oak woodlands and watershed protection citizens’ initiative narrowly lost in the June 2018 election. Some Measure C supporters didn’t think the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday went far enough to resolve the lingering issues.

“The recommendations that are going to the Planning Commission seem to be balanced away from the citizens and towards the wine industry,” Measure C co-author Mike Hackett said on Wednesday. “I’m disappointed.”

Napa County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Klobas said the group was still digesting the results of Tuesday’s meeting. The Farm Bureau opposed Measure C, along with Napa Valley Vintners, Napa Valley Grapegrowers and Winegrowers of Napa County.

“We were going to get some of what we wanted and not other things,” he said on Wednesday.

Measure C supporters say the health of carbon-sequestrating oak woodlands and water quality in reservoirs for local cities is at stake. Opponents say too many restrictions on vineyard development would hurt the wine industry that powers Napa County’s economy and called for more scientific research to prove there is a problem.

During public comments, supervisors heard from people who wanted 90 percent tree canopy preservation and people who wanted to stick with the existing 60 percent in municipal reservoir watersheds only. They heard the Measure C campaign debates played out before them over three hours.

Then supervisors spent two hours talking about how to strengthen environmental laws. They worried about the cumulative effect of overlapping requirements as their proposals stacked up, especially for farmers with small properties.

“I do want to show environmental leadership,” Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said. “But I also want to make sure agriculture remains viable and sustainable.”

Some supervisors wanted more data before setting parameters for the Planning Commission. A second Board of Supervisors session on Feb. 12 looked likely at one point during the meeting.

County Executive Officer Minh Tran said the Board already had a long day scheduled for Feb. 12. His last-minute summation of the Board’s proposals convinced supervisors that they could provide enough guidance to the Planning Commission.

That leaves the community’s difficult post-Measure C debate in the hands of planning commissioners for now.

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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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