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Giving a farmer the boot in Napa and driving out a resident....

Montalcino Resort Saga continues....
 
More of the fishy deals of Napa Sanitation District surfaced at the July 31 hearing on the hotly contested Montalcino Resort.  The matter is continued for further hearing September 11.
 
Cattle rancher Duane Chamberlain appeared at the July 31 hearing, and told those present how the Napa Sanitation District canceled his lease, one that he held for more than 30 years. And it wasn't a pretty picture.  While he intended to speak only to the lease of the 291 acres (Somky Ranch) that would become Montalcino's golf course, he was goaded by pro-resort Supervisors Bill Dodd and Mark Luce with comments like "you canceled the lease" which actually referred to another lease of NSD land in Jamison Canyon. Luce, with his outrageous behavior, shot himself in the foot by bringing up the Jamison Canyon lease as you will see later. 
 
Dodd even went so far as to state that cattle ranching is not agriculture!  Having his hand out to receive benefits from any future development (he is a consultant to Culligan Water) he should in fact recuse.  Of course Mark Luce already refused to recuse, despite his hand in engaging in a lease with HCV Napa Associates (Montalcino's developer) for the Somky Ranch and other parcels formerly ranched by Chamberlain.  Having learned that Luce tossed out a farmer which is barred by county code adds more fuel to arguments against his participation in deliberations or voting on this matter.
 
While it was frightful enough to hear of the circumstances of the Somky lease termination, Chamberlain nearly broke down in tears as he described, and displayed with pictures, the conduct of NSD in ripping up water pipe and fencing where he had cattle in Jamison Canyon under an operative lease.  The NSD used tractors during the rainy season on the property, creating slicks of mud and ooze, spoiling the land and causing extensive erosion.  They dumped sludge, which wound its way down Suscol Creek.  In addition, they directly dumped sludge over the top of his pop-up sprinkler system used to distribute wastewater through an expensive irrigation system.  NSD employees on tractors also tore out sections of pipe that provided water to his stock.  He had no alternative, given the damage to his personal property (pipes, fencing, sprinklers all paid for by him) but to terminate the lease and move his stock to Yolo County where they could get water and be safe from tractors and sludge.  Not surprisingly, some of this NSD land was turned over to Chardonnay Golf which is preparing its draft EIR for its expansion plans on the heels of anticipated approval of Montalcino Resort.
 
Chamberlain further described the abusive treatment dealt Mrs. Somky.  For the past several years she was plagued by frequent calls from developers.  She continues to own a parcel of land outside of the development zone, her stately historic home and an orchard -- the site of the first orchard in Napa County whose fruits were enjoyed by Chief Suscol some 150 years ago. 
 
Mrs. Somky lost 291 acres to eminent domain, as the NSD took over the land in September, 1986, compensating her at $5,000 per acre (Book of Deeds 469 at Page 326, Judgement of Condemnation recorded 9/29/86). The current lease between NSD and HCV Napa Associates values the land, some 15 years later, at only $1,000 per acre. This is the only instance we have found where land has mysteriously depreciated in value, despite the addition of significant improvements by leasee Duane Chamberlain. (A major tract of pasture in Napa Valley sold in 1989 at $29,000 per acre.)
 
Mrs. Somky was plagued by noises keeping her sleepless, by people entering her property at all hours, and by developers and their reps trying to get her to sign papers commiting the sale of her property.  All of this began when Mike Alexander became the manager of NSD in 1998 and hired a mob. The combined stresses have resulted in failing health so Mrs. Somky moved out of her home and has grown somewhat frail.  Despite her move, the developers have not relented in their efforts to secure her land, phoning, writing, chasing her down at her new residence, while long ago she made provisions to leave the land to her heirs.
 
While lengthily, please take time to read about Napa's land use laws.  As crafted, they remain some of the finest in the state.
 
As background:  Napa's Conservation & Planning Department staff advocated the project and it was erroneously approved (based on misrepresentations by the developer throughout and oversite as to the limitations of a 1996 Development Agreement covering only a portion of the project within an industrial zone). Requests for a General Plan Amendment and a Use Permit are before the Napa County Board of Supervisors on appeals (Farm Bureau and Sierra Club against Montalcino Resort; developer HCV Napa Associates wants affordable housing requirements reduced.  The project requires 42 units when 517 jobs are created in a very low wage industry and the developer feels this is just too much).
 
Counsel for Farm Bureau:  Shute, Mihaley & Weinberger, San Francisco.
 
"In order to approve the use permit for the proposed golf course on NSD (Napa Sanitation District) lands, the Napa County Planning Commission was required to make seven specific findings pursuant to Napa County Code section 18.104.390.  Section 18.104.390 states in its entirety:
 
18.104.390 Outdoor Recreation -- Findings
 
In addition to findings required by Section 18.124.070, the approving agency must make ALL the following findings prior to issuance of a use permit for parks or rural recreation facilities or campgrounds:
 
A.  The use is shown by evidence in the record to be appropriately located.
 
B.  There is a demonstrated need for the use within the county.
 
C.  The use does not significantly affect the ability to conduct existing agriculture uses on site or nearby.
 
D.  The use does not significantly affect potential agricultural operations on site or nearby.
 
E.  The use itself would not be adversely affected by adjacent agricultural activities.
 
F.  The use is not growth-inducing.
 
G.  The use serves local needs (Ordinance 1105 14.1996)
 
Section 18.124.070 in turn sets out the findings required for issuance of any use permit.  Section 18.124.070 states in its entirety:
 
18.124.070 Issuance -- Findings Required
 
Before issuing a use permit, the commission shall make the following written findings:
 
A.  That the commission has the power to issue a use permit under the zoning regulations in effect as applied to the property;
 
B.  That the procedural requirements set forth in this chapter have been met;
 
C.  That grant of the use permit, as conditioned, will not adversely affect the public health, safety or welfare of the county;
 
D.  The proposed use complies with applicable provisions of this code and is consistent with the policies and standards of the general plan and any applicable specific plan;
 
E.  The proposed use would not require a new water system or improvement causing significant adverse effects, either individually or cumulatively, on the affected groundwater basin in Napa County, unless that use would satisfy any of the other criteria specified for approval of waiver of a groundwater  permit under Section 13.15.070 or 13/15/080 of this code (various ordinances cited).
 
The record indicates that the Commission was apparently acting under the mistaken assumption that the Development Agreement for part of the Montalcino project also applied to the NSD lands.  Based on this assumption, the Commission never considered the requirements of section 18.104.390 and failed to make the required findings.  See FEIR at 9.0-89 to 90 (Response to Comment PH-20) stating that because the development agreement became effective in February 1996, Ordinance 1105 (codified at 18.104.390) was "NOT applicable to the Montalcino project) (emphasis is original).  Therefore, the Planning Commission's approval of the use for the proposed golf course is invalid because the Commission failed to make the findings required by section 18.104.390.  Furthermore, the Commission's finding under section 18.124.070 (D) that the project complies with applicable provisions of the county code was in error because it was based on a mistaken assumption that 18.104.390 did not apply.
 
In addition, as NCFB's (Napa County Farm Bureau's) appeal discusses in detail, the EIR for the proposed project is inadequate and therefore the Planning Commission could not properly find, under section 18.124.170 (C), that the project would not adversely affect the public health, safety or welfare of the county.
 
The NCFB's analysis of the record shows the Board is precluded from making several of the findings required by section 18.104.390 for issuance of a use permit for the proposed golf course on NSD lands.  Below, we discuss each of the required findings as they apply to the proposed golf course on NSD lands that is an integral part of the Montalcino resort project and is included in the use permit application for the resort as a whole.
 
A.  the Board Cannot Find That The Use Is Shown By Evidence In the Record to be Appropriately Located (18.104.390) (A).
 
The proposed golf course is not appropriately located.  The NSD lands where the proposed golf course would be situated currently have a general plan designation of Public Institution (PI) and a zoning designation of Agriculture Watershed (AW).  A golf course is not an allowed use of PI lands.  The intent of the PI general plan category is:
 
To indicate those lands set aside for those existing and future uses of a governmental, public use, or public utility nature such as a public hospital, public use airport, sanitation district facilities, government equipment yard, state or federal administrative offices, recycling-composting facilities or any other facilities for which the determinations set forth, pertaining to criteria for eminent domain ... can be made.
 
In addition, a golf course at this location is incompatible with the neighboring airport and the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan.  The proposed golf course includes ponds that will attract additional water fowl and other birds to the area and create an additional airport hazard  See FEIR at 4.0-31, 5.1-10 (Impact 5.1-3 Flocks of Birds). (Jay White of the Airline Pilots Association appeared June 26 and testified that the golf course scheme is in violation of Federal policies and guidelines in a number of areas.  The course begins at the end of Napa Airport's runway.)
 
B.  There is No Demonstrated Need for the Use Within the County (18.104.390 (B)).
 
There is no demonstrated need for an additional golf course within the County.  According to the General Plan the recreational opportunities "which currently are in shortest supply include: hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, picnicking, and study and enjoyment of the natural landscape."  NCGP at 2-20.  Ironically, the proposed projects will destroy a natural landscape which provides potential recreational opportunities that are in short supply and substitute a golf course for which there is no demonstrated need in the County.  (The wetlands that exist were enhanced and expanded under guidance of Corollo Engineering some years ago, working with Duane Chamberlain who farmed the area, and much of the infrastructure would be destroyed by the golf course.)
 
The County currently has at least seven 9-hole and 18-hole golf courses which are open to the general public, several of which are at "destination resorts."  An informal survey by the NCFB (attached as Exhibit A), shows that a foursome can ususally get a tee time on the same day on weekdays and singles can be accommodated within an hour of arrival.  Even on weekends, foursomes may often be accommodated the same day and can easily be accommodated if they book a week in advance, while singles can often be accommodated the same day.
 
The letter recently submitted to the Board from PKF Consulting, dated July 25, 2001, indicates the fundamental misunderstanding of Napa County planning policies and goals.  First, the statistical information was compiled for "Southern Napa Valley," but ... included four other Bay Area counties.... and based a population of 1.9 million.  Second, the letter concludes that there is a "shortage of 19 golf courses in the defined area (Napa County, by the way, has a total population of only 135,000 and overriding General Plan and Code require that recreational development be for the pleasure of residents).  Thus, according to PKF Consulting, Napa County should nearly quadruple the current seven golf courses to 26 golf courses in order to accommodate golfers from the entire region.  Clearly, such a vision is directly contrary to the Napa County General Plan which gives priority to the agricultural economy in the County and maintaining the current rural/urban balance.  The General Plan does not contemplate a string of golf courses up and down the valley that would displace agriculture and convert large portions of the county from rural agriculture and related industries, to resort destinations designed primarily for tourists.
 
C.  The proposed Use Has Already Significantly Affected the Ability to Conduct Existing Agriculture Uses on Site and Will Significantly Affect Any Potential for Future Agricultural Operations On Site (C/D)
 
The proposed golf course has already led to the termination of the existing and historic agricultural use of these NSD lands.  As the Board is well aware, displacing an agricultural use for a golf course is completely inconsistent with the Napa County General Plan policies and objectives.
 
Specifically, these NSD lands were previously leased to Duane Chamberlain ....  See documents attached hereto as Exhibit B.  He has leased approximately 290 acres of this land, formerly known as the Somky Ranch, from NSD for over 30 years and used them for cattle grazing.  Mr. Chamberlain's lease was canceled by NSD at a meeting on April 28, 1999, in anticipation of the new lease option that NSD had negotiated with the project proponent, HCV Pacific Partners.  See Exhibit B NSD board meeting minutes for 4/28/99.  Chamberlain now grazes his cattle in Woodland, Yolo County.
 
The Planning Commission was quite simply wrong when it stated that the GPA and the proposed golf course would "enhance and promote the long-term viability of agriculture and related industries."  Planning Commission Findings at 60.  In fact, rather than preserve this land in agriculture, the re-designation from PI to AWOS could allow the use of up to 306 acres of NSD lands for non-agricultural uses such as the proposed golf course.  Use of these lands as a golf course would permanently replace a local agricultural use with a tourist-oriented recreational facility."
 
The letter continues with history and evidence that the farming operations used more of the recylced waste water than the golf courses proposes to use, leaving NSD with more problems, rather than less (includes the usage of the farmer as exhibits, monthly reports issued to the farmer by NSD as to farm operation consumption of 3 acre feet/year vs. 2.5 acre feet/year proposed by golf course); deals with failure of EIR to consider the negative impact of chemical run-off into Napa River; the destruction of the wetlands by the course, etc.  As to D, growth inducing, the developer notes this is only the first phase -- there are two other contiguous developments, including the addition of homes on the fairways, lined up in conjunction with this development!  And regarding E, the golf course will not serve a local need, as argues local needs for golf are more than fulfilled -- so there is no demonstrated need for an additional golf course in the County.
 
"NCFB understands that it is important for NSD to expand the use of reclaimed water.  However, distribution of reclaimed water cannot be used as a pretext to undermine general plan policies that will impact the County for generations....
 
The Planning Commission adopted findings for approval of the Montalcino project that include a finding that the proposed project will have unavoidable growth inducing impacts... In addition, the FEIR for the Montalcino project identifies the growth inducing impacts of the project as significant and unavoidable.  Specifically, both the certified FEIR and the Planning Commission findings concluded that the project:  will remove obstacles to growth by increasing the available infrastruture in the area; may set a precedent to allow similar development to occur in the future; will add jobs and workers to the area and thereby increase the demand for housing; and will, along with other projects in the area, "increase the demands on public services such as wastewater, water, and fire protection (omitted are schools, social services, etc.).... As Robert Westmeyer, County Counsel stated "the use permit is premised on a golf course .. while PKF Consulting states "the financial success of the project is contingent upon the ability of the property to be marketed as a destination resort ... the facility requires the inclusion of recreational amenities such as a golf course."  Because the resort hotel is dependent on the golf course, the growth inducing potential of the resort cannot simply be severed from the golf course for the purpose of making the required finding under section 18.104.390 (F).
 
In addition, there are at least two more golf course related projects that are currently 'in the pipeline' for development in this area:  the Mai/Chardonnay Resort Hotel project and the Doctors' Company Hotel and Conference Center project.  Both of these resort hotel projects are located near the existing Chardonnay Golf Club and plan a 'cooperative arrangement' with the golf course. Fiscal Impact Report, Three Resort/Hotel Projects and Underlying Zoning Alternatives.  Thus it is clear that the existence of even a free standing golf course is growth inducing in Napa County by the developer's admissions, where a single golf course can attract two resort projects to it along with the resort's own concomitant impacts... Even before it has been approved, this project is already being used as a precedent for the approval of future similar resort projects associated with golf courses which will each have significant growth-inducing impacts and cumulative impacts in the County."
 
Now understand the importance of Farm Bureau's position on the Montalcino project:
 
In Napa County, there are 26,000 acres in agriculture.  Of this, more than 10,000 acres are specifically in conservation (which has the benefit of reducing property taxes).  That leaves about 16,000 acres not in conservation, at least 10,000 of which are NOT sited in connection with the three developments above but are owned by developers already. Furthermore, the Mai/Chardonnay and The Doctor's Company projects contemplate the provision of housing, which is why the idea of on-site affordable housing associated with the Montalcino Resort projects sets dangerous precedents.
 
Now let's revisit PKF's outrageous report:  The county needs 19 more golf courses (a total of 26 for its 135,000 residents).   Estimate that 400 acres are required for the course, plus parking at the site (otherwise incorporated in Montalcino's hotel area, parking for 791 cars for the first phase alone), and amenities, driveways, cart storage sheds, caddy and warm-up areas, potable water, etc.  Sprinkle in the housing and even the conservation acreage would disappear within ten years.
 
Until September 11 ....

 

NOTES FROM THE WATERFRONT ARCHIVES
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