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Napa Journal: My neighbors challenge a developer
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Napa Journal: My neighbors challenge a developer

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Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Let’s suppose you live next to a 7.6-acre field at the city’s western edge. You’d be blessed by exceptional quiet and bucolic views.

Then a notice comes in the mail. A SoCal developer intends to turn this neighborhood open space into a high-end subdivision with 12 houses and four accessory dwelling units.

Anger and despair engulf you. Your peace and quiet are threatened. What are you going to do about it?

This scenario played out this month when the Napa Planning Commission held a hearing on the Western Meadows subdivision at the end of Borrette Lane. That’s my street.

While my neighbors wrote protest letters and attended the Zoom hearing on July 1, I stood on the sidelines. As a career journalist, I didn’t want any part of a parochial fight. This is what happened that night

Neighbors leveled these criticisms:

1. Twelve houses are too many. A seven-lot project would better match parcel sizes on upper Borrette.

2. While we’re in a drought, how can the city justify more water hookups?

3. Wildfires have burned nearby wildlands. Borrette residents were urged to evacuate during the 2017 conflagrations. Development of this site is a risky proposition.

4. Narrow Borrette Lane wasn’t built for a doubling of traffic.

5. Deer and other wildlife will be displaced.

6. The project will rob the neighborhood of quiet. Homes bordering the site on Broadmoor Drive would be particularly vulnerable.

One comment captured the tenor of the hearing. “This seems like an attempt to squeeze every penny out of a serene piece of land,” a neighbor said.

Had I spoken, I might have added only one thing: Will the street serving the development mean the elimination of the blackberry patch where the Courtneys pick their summer berries?

Full disclosure: Cheryl does not like the size of the project, but in the name of domestic peace, we don’t talk about it.

Now it’s your turn, readers. Based on my summary of comments, how do you imagine the Planning Commission reacted? Did they chew over fire and water implications? Did they shrink the project?

If you read the Register’s news story that followed the meeting, you know the answer. The neighbors were skunked.

Their criticisms received a few sympathetic comments — “I hear you,” said one commissioner — but they had little impact.

Commissioners put the project in a broader context: Napa needs more housing, not less. Higher — not lower — densities are needed on the city’s remaining supply of developable land, particularly if higher-visibility sites such as Napa Oaks and Timberhill are to be protected.

The project didn’t get an approval vote on July 1 only because commissioners wanted more images of how the houses would look.

One complication: Neighbors Kirk and Karen Reid who once owned the field want to deny access over their land if the density of the project isn’t cut in half. Developer KD Development has sued the Reids, asserting breach of contract.

The city is pro-project. If the two parties can’t reach an agreement, staff said the city may use its powers of eminent domain so the housing can be built.

This is your government lesson for today.

And one more thing: What might these new, mostly 5,000-square-foot houses on half-acre lots, sell for?

In an interview, Randy Gularte, representing the developers, wouldn’t say. But he noted that the project abuts a somewhat larger house on a larger parcel that recently sold for $2.9 million.

That was $2.9 million for a “used house,” Gularte said. Western Meadows homes will be spanking new.

After the 2020 Junior Livestock Auction was forced online by COVID-19, bidders and youth agriculture groups returned to the Expo on Saturday to showcase pigs, goats, cows and sheep in person.

Kevin can be reached at kfcourtney@yahoo.com.

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City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.

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