Like naughty children whose misbehavior allowed by lax parents grows increasingly serious, some of Napa's wineries flout the municipal rules permitting their operation. A Register report last year showed that in a sampling of about 10 percent of the county's wineries, almost half did not comply with their rules regarding production quantity, number of visitors, or type of events held. Nor were they sanctioned.
So the bigger culprits over the years may be the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Commission -- and ourselves, for letting them ignore their mandates under the General Plan. The General Plan "is, in a sense, a constitution for the county's future ... a program for the protection and development of the unincorporated area of Napa County ... which is legally binding."
Failed stewardship has consequences. As far back as 1988, the Napa County grand jury was eloquent on this point (including the quote above): the rural quality of this county will erode in the face of increasing urbanization that includes promotional and entertainment activities (e.g. concerts, cooking classes, art shows).
"The movement of people from populated urban areas to less populated rural areas opposes the major intent of the Plan and creates problems with traffic, sanitation, and other services," grand jury members wrote.
Isn't there an enforcer of the constitution? Yes: "The Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission ... and County Counsel's Office are legally bound to uphold ... the Plan."
And "the containment of urban uses in urban areas depends upon strict government enforcement" and private industry cooperation. However, little wonder that a winery disregards its use-permit, if the county regulatory agencies disregard their corresponding mandates.
Near Calistoga, a winery has been violating its use permit regarding both production and visitation levels. So it has asked the county for a modification -- a blessing for its misbehavior! Will the county capitulate?
Yet, "failure to enforce the General Plan can only lead to the ... ultimate demise of the Ag Preserve because the uniqueness and international reputation of the Napa Valley will continue to invite development and activities conducive to further blurring of the agricultural/urban separations."
Or maybe, with enough comment, finally the county will "prevent the occurrence of activities on Ag zoned land, which violate the General Plan."
Parents of challenging children have thoughtful handbooks available, if only they use them. To save our valley from further exploitation, we in Napa likewise enjoy the General Plan, an impressive guideline -- if only we use it.