We are extremely concerned with the disconnect between the County’s response to the escalating fire danger we face and the continued permitting of commercial winery activities on substandard, remote roads. The Board of Forestry’s proposed restrictions addressing density and intensity of use in areas of high fire danger are particularly applicable in the case of Mountain Peak Winery, a large winery and event center permitted at the dead-end of Soda Canyon Road. In 1997, 82% of the homes on Soda Canyon Road burned, 72% of them completely.

This week we feature a guest editorial by Anthony Arger on Mountain Peak Winery, remanded by the Appellate Court to the Board of Supervisors. The Board is to reconsider the permit based on evidence from the 2017 fires. Large event centers on one-way or substandard roads threaten the lives of residents and firefighters alike.

Have we learned nothing since the tragic Soda Canyon fires in 2017?

Guest Editorial by Anthony Arger

Approved in August 2017, the Mountain Peak Winery project is located at the end of the dead-end, approximately 6.5-mile Soda Canyon Road. Mountain Peak proposes the largest visitation allowance of any winery in the history of Napa County when considering the remoteness of the location, the fact it is located on a dead-end road, and access constraints.

In 2016 and early 2017, Mountain Peak project opponents raised legitimate concerns regarding the incredible threat of fire danger in the Soda Canyon and Atlas Peak communities. The Board of Supervisors completely ignored these concerns and issued their final decision approving the project in late August 2017. Less than 6 weeks after the County’s approval of Mountain Peak, the 2017 Atlas Fire erupted and not only damaged or destroyed 82% (134) of the 163 residences on Soda Canyon Road, with 72% (118) of the residences suffering a complete loss but also tragically took two lives on Soda Canyon.

In September 2017, Soda Canyon residents filed a lawsuit against the County and Mountain Peak. In the aftermath of the 2017 Atlas Fire, the Soda Canyon residents asked the Court to include and consider evidence from the 2017 Atlas Fire. Over the County and Mountain Peak objections, the Court agreed and ordered the County to reconsider its approval of the Mountain Peak project in light of the 2017 Atlas Fire. The County and Mountain Peak filed THREE separate appeals to get the Court’s decision overturned, all of which were DENIED by the Appellate Court.

Now, the Board of Supervisors will re-consider the Mountain Peak project in consideration of the 2017 Atlas Fire evidence. Incredibly, the County’s “Staff Report” issued on May 7, 2021, COMPLETELY IGNORES ALL of the evidence from the 2017 Atlas Fire and “recommends that the Board affirm its decision” and re-approve the Mountain Peak Project IN ITS ENTIRETY!

This is outrageous. Napa County (including Soda Canyon Road) has suffered numerous major wildfires since 2017, including as recently as 2020, with millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage and destruction to property, not to mention the numerous individuals who tragically lost their lives in these various fires. The County MUST put an end to this madness. The Board of Supervisors has an opportunity on May 18 to change course and start looking out for ALL of Napa’s residents’ best interests, not just the wine industry. They can do this by issuing a decision DENYING the Mountain Peak project in its entirety, or at least substantially scaling back the size and scope of this massive project located at the end of a dead-end road, which will help reduce the threat of wildfires in the future, and increase the ability for residents to evacuate safely when the next fire comes.

You are encouraged to attend the hearing in-person or via Zoom and let your voice be heard. For more information, click here. Please consider donating to Protect Rural Napa to help fund the ongoing and critical legal battle against the County and Mountain Peak.