May 18th: Supervisors to Reconsider Mountain Peak Winery Approval Over 2017 Atlas Fire Evidence Bill Hocker | May 16, 2021
On Aug 22, 2017 the Napa County Board of Supervisors approved the use permit for the 19-employee, 14,575-visitor/year Mountain Peak Winery 6 miles up the dead-end Soda Canyon Road. Soda Canyon residents had presented ample first-hand experience and data-based assessments of fire danger on Soda Canyon Road at Planning Commission and BOS appeal hearings for the project. The Supervisors ignored their testimony in finding that "In the event of a fire that results in mass evacuations from this area, the road has sufficient capacity and roadway width to accommodate all outgoing traffic while allowing incoming fire response units."
Mountain Peak site after the fireSix weeks later, on Oct 8th, the Atlas fire erupted and quickly engulfed lower Soda Canyon Road. A fallen tree blocked traffic coming down the road and fire trucks coming up as the fire burned on all sides. A frantic effort cleared the road just enough to let the line of cars get by. Fire trucks were unable to continue up the road. Dozens of residents, unable to make it down through the fire, had to be evacuated by helicopter from the top of the road. 134 of the 163 residences on Soda Canyon Road were damaged or destroyed, 118 of them a complete loss. Tragically two lives were lost. Resident declarations vividly present the chaos of the night.
In September 2017, Soda Canyon residents filed a lawsuit against the County and Mountain Peak. In the aftermath of the Fire, residents asked the Court to include evidence from the event. Over the objections of the County and the project developer, the Court agreed, noting that "the complete inaccessibility of Soda Canyon Road during a fire and resulting helicopter evacuations of stranded individuals" had not been considered in approving the project. The Court ordered the County to re-consider its approval in light of this new evidence. The County and developer filed THREE separate appeals to try and get the Court's decision overturned, all of which were DENIED by the Appellate Court.
This Tuesday, May 18th, the Board of Supervisors will re-consider the Mountain Peak project in light of the 2017 Atlas Fire evidence. Incredibly, the County's "Staff Report" on the hearing COMPLETELY IGNORES both the evidence from the fire and the Court's desire to address the possibility of a closed road and helicopter evacuation in the future. Staff "recommends that the Board affirm its decision" and re-approve the Mountain Peak Project IN ITS ENTIRETY with no changes!
This is outrageous. Napa County has suffered major wildfires in 2017 and 2020, with millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage and destruction to property, not to mention the tragic loss of life. The County needs to end this development madness in unsafe wildfire zones. The Board of Supervisors has an opportunity on May 18 to change course and start looking out for the best interests of ALL of Napa's residents and stop the divisive effort to turn rural communities throughout the county into tourist destinations to the benefit of a few. They can do this by DENYING the Mountain Peak project in its entirety, or substantially scaling back the size and scope of the project with an evacuation plan and red-flag protocols as part of the conditions of approval to reduce the danger such commercial development presents in high fire hazard zones.
You are encouraged to attend the hearing in-person or via Zoom and let your voice be heard. For more information and pertinent documents, click here [https://sodacanyonroad.org/article.php?p=2193], and please consider donating to Protect Rural Napa [https://protectruralnapa.org/donate.php] to help fund the ongoing and critical legal battle to protect Napa's rural communities from development.
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