Dear Napa County Supervisors,
I am pleased that you decided to reopen the public hearing on the Blakeley initiative at tomorrow’s hearing. It is the only way the public has the opportunity to opine on this unusual BOS decision.
I was highly concerned over the rationale Introduced by Supervisor Dillon and adopted by Supervisors Ramos and Gregory. Ms. Dillon argued that given the Blakeley property’s location at the very northern edge of the county, it would be difficult for the voters to get familiarized with Mr. Blakeley’s issue. It would therefore be “unfair” to him to place the initiative on the ballot.
Several issues arise from this justification the BOS used in depriving the residents of the county of the opportunity to vote .
1) As much as I sympathize with Mr. Blakeley’s predicament, this initiative encompasses tens of thousands of square miles on the periphery of all five cities within the county in which other potential beneficiaries of this initiative may have been operating illegally. While relying on the plentiful testimony about Mr. Blakeley’s standing in his surrounding community, no one – including yourselves I believe – can be certain whether any other operations would enjoy the initiative’s benefits.
Your action deprived residents of other communities the opportunity to weigh their vote not against the merits of the particular Blakeley operation but against some business in their own community operating in a less friendly manner than Mr. Blakeley in Calistoga. Specifically, Supervisors Ramos and Gregory deprived their own constituents of the privilege to vote on an issue which may be specific to their own District.
2) The argument that voters may not be aware of the Blakeley operation due to its location does not consider that it is within the options an initiative sponsor is granted to educate the public on its merits before it votes. It is not up to the BOS to preempt this function just because it wants to save a sponsor the expense associated with such education. Such rationale would set a serious precedent.
3) The complete absence in your discussion that the initiative is not solely about the Blakeley operation but that it includes an unknown number of other potential operations, indicated to me that the BOS may have factual information on the complete absence of any other operations which would benefit from it. If so, such information ought to have been shared with the public. At the same time, it would make this initiative one of covert spot-zoning.
4) I believe that an initiative adopted by the BOS before going to the voters ought not be based on the character of the property owner no matter how stellar it may be but rather on systemic zoning and precedent setting considerations. The BOS must always keep in mind that zoning changes and use permits run with the land and are irrelevant to the property owner’s character.
5) To argue that placing an initiative on the ballot is “unfair” towards the very person who drafted it is unjustified. To the contrary, I would argue that the BOS action is unfair to the voters of Napa county.
In view of the above, I urge you to reconsider in favor of placing the what I believe to be misleadingly titled: “Blakeley Initiative” on the ballot.