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Napa County Measure C unlikely to pass, according to preliminary results

Final results due later this month
by Kerana Todorov
June 14, 2018

The proposed ballot measure that would have limited the removal of oak woodlands above the Napa Valley floor and curbed future vineyard development is headed to defeat, according to the latest tally released Wednesday afternoon in Napa. The June 5 election may be certified June 25, according to Napa County Registrar of Voters John Tuteur.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, with about 97 percent of the ballots cast in the June 5 election counted, Measure C had 49.08 percent of the votes and “No on C,” 50.92 percent. Measure C had 16,836 votes — or 634 fewer votes than “No on C,” according to the Napa County Election Division.

“It’s very unlikely that things are going to change at this point,” said Jim Wilson one of the leaders of the Measure C campaign. “We’re disappointed, that’s for sure,” Wilson added. “That’s a big disappointment.”
“Deforestation has no place in a climate-changed world,” said Wilson, a retired quality assurance manager at Anheuser-Busch.

Mike Hackett, a retired pilot, who spearheaded efforts with Wilson to place the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection of 2018 on the ballot, was sad but proud of their grassroots campaign, which included writing 5,000 postcards. “Sadly, big money wins,” he said, referring to the wine industry’s financial support to the “No on C” campaign.

The campaign kept the high ground, Hackett said. “I’m just very, very proud.”

“It’s clear the issue isn’t going away,” Hackett added. There is too much awareness.”

Wine industry trade associations opposed Measure C. Ryan Klobas, policy director at the Napa County Farm Bureau, has expressed confidence since June 5 that “No on C” would prevail.

“We're extremely pleased that we have a significant lead in the vote totals and are awaiting certification of the election for the final outcome,” Klobas said in an email Wednesday.

Stu Smith of Smith-Madrone in the Spring Mountain District, strongly opposed Measure C. Looking at the results, Smith said the campaign is over.

“I think a lot of us would like a break from Measure C,” Smith said. “This has been a pretty bruising fight.”
The Election Division will not release another set of preliminary results until the election is certified. Tuteur said 750 to 1000 damaged ballots now have to be duplicated and counted. The staff also has to manually tally two precincts to verify the machine counts. In addition, another 200 ballots of voters registered within 14 days before and on Election Day have to be resolved and counted.

“I hope to certify the election the week of June 25, 2018” Tuteur said Wednesday.

Wine industry group opposed Measure C, saying it was ambiguous, unnecessary and full of unintended consequences. Others, including grapegrower Andy Beckstoffer and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars founder Warren Winiarski strongly supported it.

Measure C would allow the removal of up to 795 acres of oak woodland acres without a permit; impose new buffer zones along streams ranging from 25 to 125 acres in the agricultural watershed. It would also have required a 150-foot buffer along wetlands.

Opponents said Measure C was ambiguous, unnecessary and full of unintended consequences. They questioned whether oaks damaged by fires would count toward the 795-acre limit.

A report ordered by the county – and contested by the backers of Measure C – found that there was a “significant likelihood” the initiative could be challenged in court.

Both sides raised money for their campaigns. As of late May, Measure C had raised more than $211,500 and spent about $265,000; the “No on C” campaign had raised about $646,000 and spent about $689,500, according to campaign finance records.

Measure C was one of two local measures on the June 5 ballot. The other measure, Measure D, was placed to a vote to ban private heliports in Napa County. As of Wednesday, Measure D had apparently passed with 60.96 percent of the vote, according to the Election Division. The campaign against Measure D had about 39 percent of the vote.

George Caloyannidis, a Diamond Mountain Road resident near Calistoga, lead Measure D, loaning $20,000 to pass the measure to ban future private heliports, according to campaign finance reports.

Caloyannidis said he was surprised Measure D did not get event more support. “I thought it would be more,” Caloyannidis said.

Measure D was proactive, the retired architect said. “We don’t want to become another Aspen or Hamptons,” he said, referring to the wealthy enclaves in Colorado and New York where helipads are numerous.

The initiative stemmed from an application to build a private helipad and heliport at Palmaz Vineyards near Napa. Vintner Christian Palmaz applied in 2014 for a use permit to fly his helicopter to and from his residence on the property. His helicopter was based at Napa County Airport south of Napa.

The application led to multiple hearings before the Planning Commission denied the application on Sept. 6, 2017. Palmaz then appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors. The matter is scheduled to be heard on July 10.

The appeal has not been withdrawn as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Napa County Planning Department.

“Obviously, we are disappointed with the outcome of the election,” said attorney Brian Russell, who represents Christian Palmaz. The people have spoken, he added. His client does not intend to file litigation at this point, Russell said. However, others might, he said.

“It affects all of Napa County,” he said.

Supporters of Measure D raised about $115,000 for its campaign, according to campaign finance records. The campaign to defeat Measure D raised about $130,000, much of which were donations from Palmaz family members and their businesses, according to campaign finance reports.

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