Napa County supervisors were spared having to decide if the proposed Flynnville winery approval should be overturned or upheld.
The Flynnville owners and a neighbor reached a settlement with the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The neighbor dropped an appeal of an April decision by the county Planning Commission.
That clears the way for the building of a 40,000-gallon-a-year winery on 10 acres at 1184 Maple Lane that fronts Highway 29 near Calistoga. Changes from the Planning Commission’s approval included phasing in marketing events and having seasonal visitation hours.
“We’re happy with the settlement that’s been reached,” attorney Lawrence Papale told supervisors on behalf of the Flynnville owners.
Appellant Joan Zoloth also told supervisors she agrees to the settlement.
Even so, the Board of Supervisors held an hour-plus Flynnville hearing, with supervisors seeking clarifications and adding to the approval language on the fly.
Flynnville along Highway 29 has long posed a planning challenge for the county. It began as a small area of rural commercial uses more than 50 years ago and became entangled with subsequent agricultural protection laws.
Over the years, Flynnville has had such commercial uses as today’s Jim’s Supply and a now-gone PG&E utility yard. The winery will affect only part of the property, with some of the buildings, such as the one housing Jim’s Supply, remaining.
Some have called Flynnville – named after a former owner—an eyesore. The present-day owners see the planned winery as a change for the better.
“We hope you will agree the project as envisioned and is being proposed to you is an improvement over what’s there now,” Papale told supervisors.
Supervisor Diane Dillon referred to conditions of approval dating back to 1976 calling for warehouses and other buildings at Flynnville to be painted in earth tones to blend in with the rural area. Landscaping was to be installed.
“Why the neighbors have complained –- this goes to the root of the problem –- is that the current conditions of approval have never been enforced,” Dillon said.
The current owners inherited a lot of the problems, Dillon said. But she called for painting the buildings slated to remain, building fences and installing landscaping before the winery can be built.
Owner Dan Pina didn’t object, though he has his own issues with an agriculturally zoned property that has legal non-conforming commercial uses and room for more than a winery.
“One of the biggest difficulties we’ve had in the 18 years we’ve owned the property is to get anybody in this building (county administration) to tell us what we can do,” he said. “They’re very quick to tell us what we can’t do.”
Pina said he wants clarity.
“We look forward to working in partnerships with you, that we will abide by all the (historic) conditions of approval, as long as you’re honest and above board as to what we can do,” Pina said. “That’s all we ask.”
Zoloth told supervisors about the difficulties citizens have in making their cases to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Winery owners can afford consultants and attorneys, while citizens may not understand such planning terms as “variance.”
Mediation might help to resolve such disputes as the one over Flynnville, she said.
“I apologize that it got to this situation,” Zoloth told supervisors.
Supervisors have the hard job weighing the needs of wineries and needs of neighbors and their right to enjoy their properties, she said. She talked of the need for compromise.
Some in the community are afraid that the county rubberstamps approvals, Zoloth said. She wants Napa County to preserve its brand as a premiere destination.
“My fear is we’re losing a lot of our tourists to Sonoma County and we will lose because we have a situation now where we have diluted our brand to such an extent that people will stop coming here,” she said.
With that, supervisors denied the appeal in light of the settlement, added a few twists of their own to the conditions of approval and ended the hearing.