After a recent trip abroad I returned to a 28-day stack of Napa Registers. I appreciated catching up on some of the things happening in this valley while I was gone, but also experienced moments of concern. The fires are a tragedy as was last year’s earthquake, but people again are coming together to support those in need. The Community Foundation, Grapegrowers, Vintners, and others should be commended for their efforts to raise needed funds.
My concerns were also from a few negative letters to the editor criticizing anyone opposed to unlimited growth. People don't want to shut down the wineries or to see them fail. We appreciate their contributions to this valley. We do want them to honor their use permits and feel easing winery permits and unlimited approval of development will destroy the wine industry and the jewel we have. Many of those concerned about our future include grapegrowers, winery owners, doctors, lawyers, educators, business people and many more.
I hope we can all agree that traffic has become a problem, and with no control or oversight of development in the cities and county it will only get worse. Affordable housing may be a problem, but not the cause. Building more houses and event centers will not solve the problem. The drought is having a devastating effect on our forests, creating fire worries, restricting almost everyone's water uses, yet we continue to see large numbers of water trucks hauling water from the city.
Many feel the future of this valley is in danger and the quality of life for those who live here will continue to deteriorate as tourism becomes more important than the well-being of our residents. From my many years of economic study I also realize a one-industry economy can be risky. What would happen to Napa if an insect infestation destroyed our grapes or we returned to Prohibition?
Some years ago a small group opposed the Longwood Development. We were called "Communists” and some negative things, but out of our efforts came the first Right of Referendum in California. There are some extremely bright and highly educated individuals who oppose continued unlimited approval of more hotels, wineries, Napa Pipe, Syar. Even the grand jury had concerns, which included approval of projects with little or no oversight afterward.
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A study by the Wine Industry in 2011 tells us that there are more wineries than many believe, and my recent tour of some busy wineries showed me that some of them must be violating their permitted visitor counts. The general public is at a disadvantage when wealthy individuals can hire expensive attorneys and their own consultants to push through undesirable projects. Individuals presenting projects have unlimited time to prepare and present. Those opposed have only three minutes to speak.
Our future and the future of this valley are in all our hands. We, as well as our city and county governments, must all work together to protect this wonderful place and our quality of life. Don't make it easier to get approval as some have suggested. If we don't look more carefully at what is approved, agriculture and the Ag Preserve will suffer the consequences, and large investors from all over the world will destroy what is special about Napa County.