Most citizens of St. Helena recognize that our town is losing its sense of livability as our agricultural base has transitioned to "direct-to-consumer" agri-business and tourism has become a major and growing source of city revenue.
Last Tuesday, our City Council agenda included a proposal to enter into a contract with a developer to negotiate the terms and conditions for developing the city-owned Adams Street property. This move was thwarted by a strong citizen protest asking for a wider set of choices to manage city finances and a more inclusive decision process.
Many objections were raised to the proposed major hotel, restaurant, event center and condo development on this site. Key among these was concern for traffic. Our upvalley communities, businesses, winery/and vineyard owners and citizens, now employ an army of workers who commute daily into our valley and clog Highway 29 and Silverado Trail morning and afternoon. This problem will not be solved with another dozen affordable housing units or in-fill units and certainly not with the addition of another 100-plus resort level hotel rooms.
Our businesses are experiencing rising labor costs as they try to recruit workers to make the commute. Our public employees and educators must fight the commute daily to staff our schools, college and city departments. Our citizens must plan their appointments, shopping and social engagements to narrow windows between the commute rushes and the livability of our community is diminished for everyone.
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Adding more tourist friendly facilities and services adds further to this problem as more workers are needed to support them. And tourists will tire of fighting the clog -- other locations will become more attractive for their dollars. Also, many of us will choose to move elsewhere, degrading our community further and likely adding to the number of second-home owners who do not live here full time and are not committed to our town.
It is well past time to initiate a "Transportation Solutions" effort led by our City Council and supported by community residents, business and property owners, and other upvalley communities to develop long-term solutions.
Therefore, I urge this council to halt any further development on Adams Street or with any other public owned property and take up this transportation issue as the central problem our city faces. And I urge our citizens to become actively involved in this crucial decision on the future of our beautiful community.