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Napa Planning Commission Denies Application to Build Winery Above Oakville

A proposed winery on the hillside east of the Napa Valley floor, citing concerns over traffic, impacts on the wildlife and the watershed and other challenges.
by Kerana Todorov
April 20, 2018
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Photo of Oakville Winery rendering. The Napa County Planning Commission on Wednesday denied the application with a 3-2 vote.

A proposed winery on the hillside east of the Napa Valley floor, citing concerns over traffic, impacts on the wildlife and the watershed and other challenges.

The Napa County Planning Commission on Wednesday voted 3-2 to deny the application to build the 30,000-gallon winery at the corner of Dry Creek and Mount Veeder Road above Oakville.

“It does not fit,” said Planning Commissioner Terry Scott. “It doesn’t work for me.”

The plans showed a 2,400-square-foot winery building, which included a 150-square-foot tasting room. Also on the plans were 17,220 square feet of caves, a crush pad, covered outdoor and a 619-square-foot residence for a winemaker.

The property owners, Bryant and Deirdre Morris of St. Helena, sought the green light to build the winery on a flat area of the lot within the required 300-foot setback from Mount Veeder Road. The rest of the 55-acre site is too steep and unstable to be built, the applicants argued. Placing the winery at another location on the property would require the construction of a road that would cost more than $1 million, Tom Carey, the applicants’ attorney, told the commission. No vineyards are on the property. The winery would source its fruit from growers in the area, Carey said, prompting commissioners to raise concerns about more traffic in the area, a remote corner of Napa County and the speculative nature of the application.

Anne Cottrell, who chairs the Planning Commission, voted against the application. She called the hope that the applicants would have contracts with nearby growers “quite speculative.”

The winery would receive up to 10 visitors a day by appointment. In addition, the winery sought permission to host an annual event for up to 100 people, according to the application. Carey told the commission a shuttle would bring the 100 visitors to the winery.

Firefighters last October struggled for days to contain the fires as they fought the blaze in steep terrain.

Longtime Mount Veeder resident Harry Nussbaum, citing traffic issues, urged the Planning Commission not to add more stress on the community. And Nussbaum strongly questioned how 100 people would be shuttled to the winery for the annual unspecified special event.

“Who is going to enforce this? Nussbaum asked the commissioners. “Where are they going to park? …Along Mount Veeder Road? What are you going to do with these people?”

The commissioners who voted to against the motion to deny the application, Jeri Hansen and Michael Basayne, said they wanted to give the owners more time to retool their application. Their motion to continue the hearing was defeated 2-3.

Carey said he and his clients were “inclined” to appeal Wednesday’s vote against the application to the Napa County Board of Supervisors.

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