Napa County supervisors on Aug. 14 will decide whether to overturn that rare Planning Commission decision saying a proposed winery – in this case, the Dry Creek-Mount Veeder winery—is flawed beyond hope.
The Planning Commission decided by a 3-2 vote on April 18 that the hilly, forested site at Dry Creek and Mount Veeder roads is simply the wrong place for a winery.
County planning staff wrote in a report that they recommended project approval. Planning commissioners disagreed.
“It does not fit,” Commissioner Terry Scott said. “It does not work for me.”
Commissioner Joelle Gallagher said the applicant was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
The 56-acre site has a relatively flat area where a winery could be built. This area was cleared by Cal Fire last October when fighting the Nuns fire that burned part of the property.
But using this flat clearing would require an exception to county road setback rules – sometimes called a variance – that the commission was unwilling to grant.
Commissioners had other objections. The site has no vineyards and the applicant owns no vineyards elsewhere to serve the winery, prompting Gallagher to label the grape sources as speculative.
No commissioner was willing to approve the project as proposed. The 3-2 vote came about after a debate over whether to grant the applicant time to make modifications.
A majority of the commission decided the problems facing the Dry Creek-Mount Veeder winery were insurmountable.
“I think if it could be done without a variance, then I think it would have been presented that way,” Gallagher said. “And so I don’t feel very confident that there’s anything that’s going to come back that’s going to change my decision.”
Attorney Thomas Carey on behalf of the applicant filed the appeal with the Board of Supervisors.
Three commissioners visited the site the day before the Planning Commission hearing and expressed concerns. The applicant wasn’t granted time to address concerns that had just come to light, the appeal said.
That resulted in the lack of a fair hearing. The commission presented no evidence that more time wouldn’t have resulted in better information for a final decision, the appeal said.
Dry Creek-Mount Veeder winery would produce 30,000 gallons of wine annually, have a visitor cap of 70 guests weekly and have 11 catered marketing events annually for a total of 400 guests.
The Board of Supervisors looked like it would also have to decide an appeal involving Clos Pegase winery at 1060 Dunaweal Lane near Calistoga. That May 10 decision by the Zoning Administrator sought to clarify the winery’s marketing event rights.
Neighbor Norma Tofanelli, after appearing to reluctantly support the ruling at the hearing, subsequently filed an appeal. Clos Pegase owner Vintage Wine Estates on July 23 withdrew its application, leaving nothing to appeal.
Vintage Wine Estates couldn’t be reached to say why it made this move.
The Board of Supervisors also has one non-winery appeal to deal with, the proposed Palmaz heliport denied by the Planning Commission.
Measure D passed by voters on June 5 banning new personal use heliports makes the matter moot. Unless Measure D is challenged in court, the Board on Aug. 14 will likely dismiss the appeal.