Six years after Napa first approved plans for a resort and housing development for the rural Stanly Ranch area, work on its first element – a 150-room luxury hotel – has been cleared to begin.
Tuesday night, the City Council approved the hotel project floated by Auberge Resorts, which already operates two high-end lodgings Upvalley. The VieVage hotel off Stanly Lane, just south of the Highway 12/29/121 intersection, would set its rooms among 84 cottage-like buildings surrounded by native plants and produce gardens, and is scheduled to open in 2017.
Vice Mayor Mary Luros joined Councilmembers Scott Sedgley and Juliana Inman in supporting the hotel, to which developers seek to add 25 shared ownership homes that people occupy at different times of the year, 70 fully owned homes and a 40,000-square-foot winery. (Mayor Jill Techel and Councilman Peter Mott were absent.)
The Stanly Ranch development is estimated to cost $250 million to $275 million. City officials have estimated the resort will generate $4.4 million of tax revenue in its first year, including property and hotel-room taxes.
Rather than gathering its guest rooms into one large building, the Stanly Ranch hotel, part of a complex that will occupy 93 of the property’s 712 acres, will spread its rooms across dozens of small, one-story structures made from metal, wood and stone in an effort to create a peaceful, farm-like atmosphere.
A core of six larger buildings will hold a restaurant, coffee shop, spa, banquet hall and conference center, and cycling and pedestrian trails would crisscross the resort grounds and line Stanly Ranch’s north and west sides.
The Napa council passed the Stanly Ranch resort’s master plan in 2010, but each of its three phases also requires separate permits from the city. The project’s 95 homes are to form the project’s second phase, followed by the winery.
While the resort design gained the council’s praise for its abundant open space and the promised use of reclaimed water for irrigation, Sedgley expressed regret at what he called a missed opportunity to help the hotel’s future employees live close to their work.
Although Napa is to receive about $4.4 million from the developer Stanly Ranch Resort Napa LLC toward its affordable housing fund, Sedgley said a better solution would have been to require the creation of staff housing on the resort grounds – potentially lessening traffic on nearby roads.
“When do we start looking at new models for affordable housing? This would have been a wonderful place to have employee housing on-site,” he said. “Contributing money into a trust is the old model, and it’s not keeping up.”
An officer for a Napa-based community service group agreed, saying even a multimillion-dollar contribution toward housing is less helpful than it would seem.
“Upwards of $4 million for affordable housing sounds like a lot of money, but it takes about $90,000 of local subsidies for every unit that’s developed – in the best of circumstances,” Grania Lindberg of Napa Valley CanDo told the council. “There will be 150 rooms, and it takes about three employees to support each room in a high-end resort like this. When you do the math, you realize the contribution the project will make will develop possibly 44 units.
“This is going to contribute to our dire need for more affordable housing. I don’t know if anything more can be done, but there it is.”
Developers originally were required to contribute only $1.4 million toward affordable housing when Napa first approved the Stanly Ranch complex in 2010. However, a lawsuit by Latinos Unidos del Valle de Napa y Solano, a housing advocacy group, led to a settlement in which builders agreed to an additional $3 million.
The start of hotel construction will come more than two years past the project’s original starting date. In addition to the Latinos Unidos suit, developers changed their hotel partner in 2014, replacing Starwood Hotels & Resorts – which would have run the hotel under the St. Regis brand – with Auberge Resorts, the operator of Calistoga Ranch and the Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford.
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