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Proposed Napa County oak woodlands initiative hurts property owners

Proposed Napa County oak woodlands initiative hurts property owners

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While there has been much focus on the potential impact of the proposed oak woodlands and watershed protection ballot measure on the wine industry, country property owners stand to be the biggest losers should this initiative pass.

The ballot initiative effectively bans future vineyard development on properties with native oaks. Not just large commercial vineyards but all vineyards. Gone will be the ability to plant even a modest hobby vineyard on most residential properties. And that will significantly lower property values for affected homeowners.

Having worked closely with members of Vision 2050, I understand the rationale behind putting this initiative on the ballot. And I appreciate their genuine concern for our environment. Walt Ranch was offensively large with a massive potential impact to our watersheds. This ballot initiative was the natural response.

But Walt Ranch was an aberration. Most commercial vineyard projects are vastly smaller in scale with much less impact on the environment. And residential vineyard projects even smaller with even less impact.

All vineyard projects today on lands over five degrees in slope go through an exhaustive erosion control plan approval process. So there is an existing regulatory process in place in which additional mitigation measures can be inserted to more adequately protect native oaks and watersheds. No new regulation is required.

There must be a balance between conservation and private property rights. And it is the role of our elected officials to work with all stakeholders to find that right balance. Effectively banning all new vineyard development is not the answer here.

Robert Pursell


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