ST. HELENA — The St. Helena City Council adopted a resolution this week expressing “significant concerns” about the proposed overhaul of the former Vineland Vista Mobile Home Park and suggesting that the property be annexed into the city limits.
The resolution summarizes the criticisms the council posed on June 12 about the project, which requests city water. It will be sent to the county along with a letter requesting more details about the project, which was submitted as a “minor modification” but is referred to as a “hotel” on two pages of the plans.
“In my mind, a hotel project is not a mobile home park,” Mayor Alan Galbraith said.
The former park just south of the city limits contains 18 spaces for mobile homes and recreational vehicles, plus four permanent buildings that have historically contained rental apartments. Owner Kathryn Hall wants to convert the four “stick-built” units into mobile home spaces so that they can accommodate modern manufactured homes.
Hall and her lawyer Jeff Dodd told the Star last week that the project might include short-term overnight lodging, but the details are still being worked out. They emphasized that the application is accompanied by plans to donate a 2-acre parcel behind Dean & DeLuca for farmworker housing.
According to the resolution, the drawings submitted to the county and forwarded to the city “show that the intended use is for a hotel and not for residential use in a mobile home park.” The plans propose a large pool, concierge space, event pavilion, event lawn and other amenities commonly associated with hotels.
The resolution mentions environmental impacts such as “increased traffic volumes, increased water use, aesthetic impacts, impacts to the adjacent agricultural uses and concerns over the environmental impacts of any potential septic use.”
The resolution claims that the project exceeds the limits of a “minor modification” and should be treated as the expansion of a “legal non-conforming land use” due to a subsequent county ordinance that established a 20-acre minimum lot size for mobile home parks.
When the owners forced the park’s tenants to leave several years ago and stopped using the property’s city water connection, they abandoned the site’s historic use, the resolution states. Therefore, any new environmental impact should be compared to “the current use and development occurring on the project site,” which is basically nothing, the resolution states.
Galbraith quoted a letter from Dodd arguing that the city is legally required to continue providing water to the park “without any limits to the amount of water used.”
“I do not personally accept that statement on its face,” Galbraith said. “He may be right, but before I would commit to such a statement I would want a thorough legal analysis by our counsel.”
Because of the “significant challenges” involved in developing the project in the county, “it is recommended that the Owner pursue annexation to the City of St. Helena to address these challenges and reduce the environmental impacts identified above,” the resolution states.
The application includes a development agreement that will have to go before the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. No county hearings are anticipated until September at the earliest.