Napa County District 3 Supervisor campaign will focus on three main issues: winery and vineyard development, water, as well as the environment.
After a 20 year tenure, Supervisor Diane Dillon declared in January 2021 she would not seek a sixth term. This set off a six-way contest for the district’s representation, which includes Yountville and St. Helena, Calistoga and Angwin.
The six candidates are Anna Chouteau, St. Helena City Councilmember, Anne Cottrell (Napa County Planning Commissioner), John Dunbar, Yountville Mayor, Matt Hooper, Cio Perez, retired biotech executive, and Rafael Rios, attorney.
Ines DeLuna, seventh candidate, filed election paperwork but decided to not run. She wanted to concentrate on her work at Napa Valley College trustee.
Rios was the only candidate to not have responded in writing, as all six candidates did. This article is the first in a series of two. It is based on the responses to questions about winery and vineyard development, water and the environmental.
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The candidates’ positions on wildfires and Measure L, as well as their qualifications to manage county finances, will be examined in a follow-up article.
Perez proposes a moratorium for new wineries and expansions of wineries to allow the county to examine the limits of its resources, including water, housing, and carbon sequestration.
Perez also wants a moratorium on new vines in the Ag watershed district until the county approves a Climate Action Plan.
Once a plan is in place, it’s possible to assess the overall impact of each new development project and any mitigation measures more realistically, Perez writes.
Perez also wants a longer approval process for the county, at least four weeks of prior notice to the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors about new projects, and an extension of the time allowed for public comment at county meeting.
Chouteau suggested that the county develop and implement a Groundwater Sustainability plan and a Climate Action Plan for the whole county.
Chouteau said that we must include climate action goals in all our activities, including urban planning, housing and commercial developments, transportation, energy and food management, farming and agriculture practices.
She suggested that the county allow vineyards only when they are environmentally friendly and reject them when they are not.
Chouteau plans to update the county’s General Plan policies, and zoning regulations in order to deal with the realities of climate change and fire.
Chouteau stated that the county should also collaborate with cities to study municipal water reservoirs and work with landowners and local agencies to educate the community about best practices to protect sensitive habitats, ecological balance, and healthy watersheds.
Cottrell stated that new vineyards should prove there is enough water for the long term, and that the new plant will not harm the surrounding areas. This is a high bar in our hillsides.
She cited her experience with the Watershed Information and Conservation Council, which tracks projects such as the Drought Contingency Plan.
Cottrell stated that more needs to be done by the county to respond to groundwater data, and to ensure that the county’s mitigation and monitoring systems for new projects are robust and continuous.
She stated that she also wants to strike a balanced between protecting the original values of Ag Preserve founders, and supporting a sustainable wine business that is more dependent on direct-to consumers sales.
Cottrell stated, “We need to better understand our resources, how we use and conserve them, and then create a plan of sustainable growth.”
Hooper opposed the removal old-growth oaks, conifers and conifers in order to make space for vineyards. He suggested that vineyard applications be evaluated on how they will affect neighboring properties, which rely on the same water sources.
Hooper stated, “Groundwater assessments at this location may also justify the restriction on the size of a vineyard or the requirement for more recycled water for operations.”
Hooper was asked whether there are too many wineries in the county. He said that it is a question that winery applicants should address based on the business climate and neighbor objections that could derail a project.
Hooper said that if there is a lot of public pressure to cap the number of wineries, it would have to be decided by the residents of the county, not the Supervisors.
Dunbar stated that decisions regarding vineyard and winery development should be made based on the county’s regulations, ordinances, and General Plan policies.
Dunbar opposed a moratorium for new winery and vineyard construction. He said that the General Plan is showing expected results at or below the levels Dunbar stated.
He pointed out that vineyards account for about 9 percent in Napa County. A recent projection estimated that they would be at 10 percent by 2030.
Dunbar stated that if the number of vineyard acres approved exceeds the estimated amount in the General Plan, Dunbar would recommend additional discretionary review to ensure consistency with the adopted plan.
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You can reach Jesse Duarte at (707) 967-6803 or [email protected].
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