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Napa County Board of Supervisors to Review Planning Commission Vote in Bremer Case

by Kerana Todorov
December 11, 2019
The Napa County Board of Supervisors is slated to review in March a decision by the Planning Commission to allow Bremer Family Winery to keep in place unpermitted pedestrian bridges and other improvements along a creek. Submitted photo courtesy of Napa County.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors is expected to review a vote by the Planning Commission to allow a winery the right to maintain rocks walls and other structures built years ago too close to a creek that runs through its property.

The Napa County Planning Commission on Oct. 16 decided that John and Laura Bremer, owner of Bremer Family Winery, should not have to remove a number of structures, including a barn, a restroom, rock walls, portions of buildings and two pedestrian bridges that were built too close to the creek. The commission voted 3-2 to grant exceptions to the county’s conservation regulations.

Michael Hackett, an Angwin resident, filed the appeal on Oct. 28. The hearing is slated to come before the Board of Supervisors sometime in March.

Hackett, who is known in the community for having led the unsuccessful bid to pass the watershed protection measure known as Measure C in 2018, was among those who urged the Planning Commission not to grant Bremer Family Winery an exception to the county’s conservation regulations.

“Are we going to penalize them? Or are we going to reward them? That is the question that you need to answer,” Hackett told the Planning Commission on Oct. 16. “I think it’s very important that you set a precedent for future violators.”

In February, the Bremers and Napa County reached a court settlement for alleged permit code and permit violations. The Bremers agreed to pay $271,464 in attorney fees and costs as part of the agreement, according to the settlement.

The question before the Planning Commission was the compliance issue. Had the Planning Commission denied the exceptions, the encroachments would have remained out of compliance. What would have happened next was unclear.

The Bremers’ attorney, David Gilbreth, told county officials when he filed his clients’ application for an exception to the county’s conservation regulations that the creek “is beautiful, free-flowing and pristine.”

Removing the walls installed years ago would not make sense, representatives for the Bremers told the Planning Commission.

The channel functions properly within the existing setbacks, said Phill Blake, a consultant for the Bremers, told the Planning Commission on Oct. 16.

In the meantime, Bremer Family Winery remains open to the public at 975 Deer Park Road.

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