A 200-plus-page look at a proposed resort on the rural, former Red Hen site between Napa and Yountville finds no environmental hurdles that it deems insurmountable.
Napa County has released a draft environmental impact report done by Ascent Environmental on the project. The county Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing to collect comments on Wednesday, with no decision to be rendered.
The proposed 50-room hotel and spa, 100-seat restaurant and retail space would be at 5091 Solano Ave., north of Oak Knoll Avenue. The site provides a rare opportunity to build a hotel in the unincorporated county near the vineyards of the agricultural preserve.
Such possible impacts under state environmental laws as glare, the disturbance of bat roosts and noise can be rendered “less than significant,” the draft report concluded.
Whether the Oak Knoll hotel can win county approval remains to be seen. Several rural neighbors at a county hearing last year said too many uses are being targeted for the 3.54-acre property. Some buildings would be three stories.
“It’s too big,” attorney James Rose, who represented a neighbor, said at the June 2017 county hearing. “It’s too intense. You put too much water in the bucket and what happens? The water spills.”
Commercial development at this rural site dates to at least 1947, when silent film star Lenore Stearns opened the Red Hen House & Garden shop. Her son opened the Red Hen restaurant in 1954 and other shops followed, the report said.
These ranch-themed buildings have been vacant for several years and are behind a chain link fence fronting Solano Avenue. Windows are boarded and weeds are growing nearby. The structures would be demolished and removed to make way for the resort.
The draft report said that “the project represents an improved aesthetic from the current dilapidated and overgrown condition of the site.”
As a side note, a modern version of the Red Hen restaurant moved from this rural site to a new home a mile-and-a-half south on Solano Avenue within the city of Napa in 2003.
The hotel, restaurant and spa would generate parking-lot- related noise and noise from loading dock operations. It’s unknown if the restaurant might have outdoor events with amplified music and voices, but that’s a potential noise source. All of this would cause a significant impact, the report said.
But the report sees ways to deal with the noise issue. For example, the loading dock would be located and designed with noise reduction in mind. Outdoor amplified music and voices would have to be at levels falling within county noise limits and be banned from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Taking these and other steps would leave noise from the resort “less than significant,” the report stated.
Glare could be handled by providing the minimum lighting needed for safety and wayfinding, shielding and down-casting lights, locating exterior lighting as close to the ground as possible and other methods.
As required by state law, the draft report looks at project alternatives. One option is to stick with commercial uses similar to those at the old Red Hen complex. That could be accomplished by rehabilitating the existing buildings or demolishing them and rebuilding.
Another option is to allow the resort, but ban special events there because these events could have amplified music and voices.
People can go to https://bit.ly/2tMwWSm to read the draft environmental impact report. A copy is available at the Napa Main Library.
The county is accepting comments through 4 p.m. Aug. 6. Comments can be sent to Project Planner Dana Ayers at firstname.lastname@example.org and should include “Oak Knoll Hotel Project DEIR Comment” in the subject line.
The Planning Commission will accept verbal comments on the draft document when it meets at 9 a.m. July 11 at the county administration building, 1195 Third St. in Napa.
In coming months, if all goes as planned, the county will issue a final environmental impact report. That document will include answers to comments received for the draft version.
Then the Planning Commission will consider approving the environmental impact report and the Oak Knoll hotel project.