After years of deliberation and debate over the re-use of the Napa Pipe site, the Napa County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve a mixed-use development whose major features will be a Costco store and up to 945 homes at the former industrial location.
The supervisors were only voting on General Plan and zoning amendments — the land-use changes — but the approval is a major hurdle before the project can break ground. Still to come is approving a development agreement, a development plan and design guidelines. The vote was unanimous in favor of the project.
Tuesday’s vote follows an agreement Monday afternoon between the city and the county, allowing the development to receive access to city water as part of a far-reaching memorandum of understanding on services, revenue sharing, future annexation and housing allocations, among other issues.
The city and the county have agreed on a term sheet, which will be developed into the memorandum of understanding in the coming weeks.
With the agreement, the city will take on 80 percent of the county’s regional housing allocations from 2022 to at least 2058, largely taking the county out of the business of making land-use changes to accommodate housing developments. The county will give the city money out of its housing trust fund to help the city build affordable housing.
In exchange, the city and the county have agreed for the county to take 45 percent of the property tax revenue generated at Napa Pipe, and the city 55 percent. The two governments will split the sales tax and hotel transient-occupancy tax revenue on a 50-50 split until the site is annexed, which requires a vote of city residents.
Supervisors Bill Dodd and Keith Caldwell helped broker the deal with Napa Mayor Jill Techel and Councilwoman Juliana Inman. Caldwell said this agreement can serve as the basis for a renewed partnership between the city and the county.
“We’ve worked through some very sensitive areas,” Caldwell said. “I walked away from the meeting yesterday believing this is a full partnership.”
Techel noted that there’s still significant work to be done before the project begins construction, but said the successful negotiations go a long way to fostering trust between the two governments.
“My goal is to rebuild the trust between the city and the county,” Techel said. “The future is big if we can partner together.”
Keith Rogal, the developer leading Napa Redevelopment Partners, said Tuesday’s vote offers an affirmation of his belief in the project, and how the 154-acre former industrial site should be used for future generations.
“There’s a readiness to move past the discussion of ‘should the property be reused in this way,’” Rogal said after the supervisors’ meeting. “I feel so strongly about the fact that this will be a great neighborhood for all ages and incomes.”
The 154,000-square-foot Costco will anchor the eastern portion of the site, while the residential development, a 150-unit senior-care facility, a hotel, restaurant and retail spaces will sit on the western portion, which is on the east banks of the Napa River.
The Costco will be built first, but the developers have plans to include 90,000 square feet of office space on the eastern side, as well as 75,000 square feet of light industrial and warehousing. Twenty percent of the residential units will be deed-restricted as affordable, including 70 units for very low income, 70 units for low income, and 50 percent for moderate income.
The developers will provide a connection to Kennedy Park, located to the north, and are on the hook for the costs of maintenance of roads and parks on the site, which could be financed through a homeowners association. Financing plans will be included in the development agreement.
The city of Napa will extend its water supplies to the project, charging “outside city” rates so long as the property remains in the unincorporated area. Annexing the site within city limits will likely be on the ballot in 2014.
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At full build-out, the project is estimated to need 300 acre-feet of potable water annually, as well as 25 acre-feet for a school that’s expected to serve future housing. The Napa Sanitation District will provide 150 acre feet of non-potable water.
Ellen Trescott, an attorney working with the Napa Coalition for Responsible Development, expressed environmental concerns about the project during the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday. She said the county has done inadequate analysis of the project’s impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act, including water and traffic.
The project changed substantially when the developers shrunk its size and added a Costco store in June 2012, and the county needs more analysis of its environmental impacts, Trescott argued in a letter to the Board of Supervisors in May.
The Napa Coalition for Responsible Development is made up of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 343, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 180, and other Napa County residents.
“These issues are not going away,” said Trescott. “The best thing the county can do is acknowledge that it needs a follow up CEQA document and cover your bases.”
Whit Manley, a lawyer working for Napa Redevelopment Partners, said those issues have been studied fully over the past four years, as the environmental review process began in January 2009. Napa County issued its draft environmental impact report in October 2009, a supplement to the EIR in 2011, and the final EIR in 2012.
“We’ve been at this for eight years,” Manley said. “It’s time for the lawyers to shut up.”
Indeed, after steel production shut down at the Napa Pipe site in 2004, Napa Redevelopment Partners purchased it in 2005 for $42 million. That started the process of erecting a mixed-use development project. The original proposal was for 3,700 homes, but that shrank to 3,200 homes when the developers sent their application to the county in 2007.
The size shrank again, to 2,580, and then to 2,050 homes. The county Planning Department pitched the size of 700 to 945 homes in 2012, and the county Planning Commission backed that size for the project.
Rogal noted that Napa Pipe has received a litany of advice from supporters and critics over the years.
“The input from all of them have shaped this,” Rogal said.
With the land-use changes approved, Rogal said the project can move into its next phase of fleshing out its design aspects and the permitting process.
“That is really at the core of what I am passionate about,” Rogal said. “It’s a very big step.”
This story was updated at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday with additional information.