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Atlas Peak residents file suit after Napa County Okays Mountain Peak Vineyards construction

alleges county violated state laws and local rules when it approved project without a full in-depth environmental impact report
by Kerana Todorov
September 25, 2017

A group of Atlas Peak residents are in court to stop the construction of a mountain top winery Napa County officials approved this summer, according to court records.

The plaintiffs, known as the Soda Canyon Group, strongly opposed the 100,000-gallon winery on top of Soda Canyon Road, citing concerns about traffic safety, groundwater supply depletion, noise, sediment erosion into nearby creeks and other issues. Opponents said during public hearings the winery would have caves bigger than a Best Buy and was not in scale for the remote location.

The Soda Canyon Group alleges in its complaint filed Sept. 20 that Napa County violated state laws and local rules when it approved the project without a full in-depth environmental impact report, according to the lawsuit filed in Napa County Superior Court. The protesting neighbors want Napa County to set aside its decision to approve the winery’s use permit.

Mountain Peak Vineyards entails about 33,400 square feet of caves, an 8,000-square-foot tasting room, along with a 6,400-square-foot covered outdoor crush pad and work area. Most of its winemaking operations would be underground.
Under the approval, the winery can welcome up to 60 visitors a day and up to 275 visitors a week. In addition, the winery can host one big event a year for up to 125 guests and two smaller ones for up to 75 people each.

The winery’s estate-grown grapes from two adjacent vineyards would provide 92 percent of estate-grown grapes, according to the applicants.

During the approval proceedings, the owners agreed to source at least 75 percent of the winery grapes from nearby vineyards thus reducing truck trips along Soda Canyon Road.

The proposed new winery, owned by Eric Yuan and his family, would seek Platinum certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Napa County staff recommended approving the project. The proposal won the green light from the Napa County Planning Commission in January 2017 after multiple hearings and a petition against the project signed by 900 county residents. That approval was sealed when the Napa County Board of Supervisors turned down a series of appeals this summer. The last votes were Aug. 22.

The applicant’s representatives said the project would result in a net loss in water usage in part because some vines would be removed. They also said they believed in responsible farming, noting the vineyard is organically farmed.

Steven Rea, the winery’s representative, told the Board of Supervisors in May, the vast majority of the concerns seem to be with existing conditions, including issues with trucks, tractors, road conditions.
“Those are all pretty much based on problems with agriculture,” Rea also said. “And I feel for them,” he said referring to the neighbors.

“But I came here to farm, to make wine, to run a winery business. And everything I’ve understood about (the) Napa Valley, this is wine country. The general plan supports agriculture,” he said, referring to the right-to-farm ordinance. The company has converted to organic farming, he noted.

Supervisors said the winery proposal followed all the rules.

“This project is not going to come at the expense of your quality of life and I truly believe that,” Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza said in May, as opponents laughed in the Board Chambers.

In the end the votes against the appellants were all 4-0, with one supervisor absent. The appellants lost another round in August with a second round of 4-0 votes.

Eric Yuan’s company also runs a tasting room named Acumen on First Street downtown Napa near the future Archer hotel.

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