“Commissioners were uncertain how to juggle the needs of the two businesses while keeping within the wastewater cap. Their solution: let the Alkossers figure it out.” Napa Register, November 29, 2020

We continue to be astounded by some of the decisions coming out of the Planning Commission. The latest? The Shadybrook Winery and Rapp equestrian center, both owned by David and Alice Alkosser.

Shadybrook requested an increase of visitors from 21 guests a day to 50, with six marketing events of 100 people. The Rapp center has rights to 50 guests a day. The combined, next-door businesses also include 16 full-time employees.

The fly in the ointment is that the two parcels and businesses share a wastewater system with a daily limit of 111 people. The Planning Commission’s solution? Let the Alkossers work it out themselves!

As Commission chairperson Dave Whitmer said, “To be honest with you, I wouldn’t want to have to do that myself, because it seems complicated to me, trying to figure out how you keep it to 110, 111 people a day on these two parcels.” All they have to do is to report to the County showing how they have held to 111 people a day.

This solution defies imagination. Even one marketing event of 100 people, if you hold to the 111 limit, allows for only eleven employees at combined businesses if no visitors at Rapp. This is absurd. And who exactly is the county person they report to? And how often? This is only one such example. In recent years the Planning Commission has approved permits with disputed legal easements between owners, leaving it to them to work it out in court. Often water security issues loom. Our experience with follow-ups on well usage reporting is that if it happens at all, try to find said reports. Why are we making more work for the County? Just say no. In this case, restrict visitation at Shadybrook, including large events, to conform with wastewater limits.

Why this push to permit all requests?
Too often it then falls to citizens to appeal, at a cost, to the Board of Supervisors, and/or to sue. Already appeal costs to the appellant can top $3000 and this doesn’t include attorney fees, deemed necessary. Now County Council wants to amend the appeal process to make it even more expensive for citizens to appeal (See 12/8/20 agenda item, 9f). Can we have a government that works to keep requests within the limits of the infrastructure of the land and its location, of the water availability, and of the natural resources within the area, rather than one pushed by any one industry?

We commend Commissioners Cottrell and Gallagher for dissenting on the vote, Cottrell citing the possibility of the parcels being sold to different owners. Who works out this complex wastewater situation then?

Our Planning Commissioners and our Supervisors need to hear from us. They need to do their jobs with accuracy and long term vision, so that we don’t have to spend time and money appealing faulty, unclear, potentially damaging decisions.