After months of pushback and criticism of the effects of new winery projects and the related growth in tourism, the Napa County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors pledged Tuesday to work with staff and the wine industry to analyze the situation and look at potential policy changes.
By Wednesday, however, it was clear how little had changed. Neighbors to a proposed 30,000-gallon winery on Silverado Trail and Zinfandel Lane criticized what they said was an over-sized marketing plan, but the Planning Commissioners said they were bound by the county’s current regulations in making their decisions on whether to approve a project.
The commission voted unanimously to approve the project, called Castellucci Winery, despite the objections of neighbors such as Paul Pelosi, husband to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. Commissioner Matt Pope said the best thing to do is study the situation first before making any decisions on changing county policy.
“This is pretty representative of where we’re at right now,” Pope said. “A dramatic course correction is not necessarily the right course of action. We don’t want public policy to turn on a dime.”
The comments did little to satisfy the critics of the Castellucci project and others who have spoken before the Planning Commission in recent months. The Castellucci project, while small on the scale of other Napa Valley wineries’ production, had been delayed twice before the commissioners approved it Wednesday.
Pelosi, grapegrower Andy Beckstoffer and others said a third postponement was warranted to study elements of the project more, but the commissioners disagreed. Pelosi said he was concerned the project would be too close to his house, and traffic generated by the project would hurt Zinfandel Lane.
The Castelluccis had looked at using a driveway off of Silverado Trail as a main entrance for the winery, but the county Public Works Department determined that would have been much more unsafe because of the bends in the road and higher speed limits, said attorney Rob Anglin, who worked on the project.
Pelosi also objected to the Castelluccis seeking an average maximum of 300 weekly visitors plus special events, which he said was out of place on that end of Zinfandel Lane, which has wineries with smaller marketing plans.
“I don’t object to the Castelluccis having a winery,” Pelosi said. “This one is too big. Basically what they’re saying is, ‘Why don’t you just let us build the winery?’ There hasn’t been any mitigation of our concerns.”
Anglin defended the project before the commission, saying the marketing and visitation was in line with similarly sized projects the commissioners had approved recently. The Castelluccis agreed to lower the weekly marketing average to 210, he said, which the commission ultimately approved.
“There is some guidance,” Anglin said. “You’re going to get more. While we get that guidance, you’re left with the guidance that you have.”
Anglin said the Castelluccis willingly provided the county sources for all of the grapes they were planning to buy for the winery’s production, which was enough to satisfy the county’s 75 percent rule using conservative acreage-yield estimations of 3 tons per acre. More likely, yields would be higher than that, giving the Castelluccis more grapes than they’d need, he said.
Anglin also took issue with a comparison of Castellucci to Raymond Vineyards, a much larger winery farther down Zinfandel Lane that is still seeking to double its annual production, from 750,000 gallons to 1.5 million gallons with 3,500 visitors weekly. That proposal elicited outcry before the Planning Commission two years ago, and may be returning next month, Anglin said.
“This project is not Raymond,” Anglin said. “It’s not anything close to what Raymond is.”
Beckstoffer, an outspoken critic of the Raymond project, said a comparison can be drawn between the two proposals because they will both add traffic to Zinfandel Lane, a cumulative impact he said the county’s not paying enough attention to.
“This is not the Raymond winery,” Beckstoffer said. “They’re both on Zinfandel Lane. You don’t have the data you’re going to get. It will be appealed.”
Mt. Veeder resident Tony McClimans said the objections winery developers have to a moratorium, or to the notion that the county would be tweaking policies in a manner unfair to current applicants, weren’t credible in the context of past land-use battles in the Napa Valley such as the push for a larger minimum lot-size.
“If you didn’t change the rules in the middle of the game, you wouldn’t have the minimum lot size … and the county would look a whole lot different,” McClimans said. “(Developers) are kind of asking you to safeguard their investment. I don’t think it’s government’s responsibility to safeguard their investments, so much as it’s their responsibility to safeguard the community.”
But the commissioners said again that the Castellucci project, as with others before it, need to be analyzed in the broader picture of land-use policy in the county. Commissioner Bob Fiddaman said the county is doing that.
“That’s a question we are asking, and that’s an answer that we are going to get,” Fiddaman said. “But this is not an emergency situation.”