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Many Voices Expected at Napa Pipe Hearing

Napa County's planning commission meets in special public session tonight at 6 p.m. at Napa Valley College to weigh the future of an ambitious mixed-use development proposal for the former Napa Pipe industrial site just south of the city.

Members of the Napa County Conservation, Development and Planning Commission can expect to hear a lot of public comment at the special commission meeting tonight at , held to discuss the proposed Napa Pipe development.

A similar meeting last month drew about 150 people to the and many of them had comments and questions about the recently-completed environmental impact report for the 154-acre property, where developers propose to build more than 2,000 apartments with nearby retail and office spaces at the former industrial site on the Napa River.

Why some like Napa Pipe

The proposal is acclaimed by some for its New Urbanist design, which emphasizes walkable neighborhoods with nearby services and public transportation—a combination supporters say would help cut down on the region's worsening traffic by reducing the need for car trips outside the development.

But many Napans are strongly opposed to the prospect.

Why some dislike it

Slow-growth advocates and many Napa city dwellers—including members of the city council—see the concept as a form of urban sprawl that would saddle the city with an unwanted suburb.

According to the , there is also a growing movement to forestall residential development in order to keep the waterfront site available for renewed industrial use.

Local anti-sprawl advocates and the  oppose the development proposal as well, for reasons including population density and the use of groundwater.

Who gets heard at tonight's meeting?

At the commission's Feb. 21 special public meeting, Napa residents were not allowed to address the developer, commission members or county planning staff directly: Instead, they were required to hand-write their remarks on cards that were then read aloud by planning commission chair Michael Basayne.

This practice led to a who said the county may have violated state open meeting laws by imposing the comment card restrictions after posting an agenda that said comments could be made verbally.

At tonight's meeting, people will be allowed to pose their questions and comments aloud, according to the agenda:

If you wish to speak on an item on the Agenda and under discussion by the Commission, you may do so upon receiving recognition from the Chairperson. After being recognized by the Chairperson, please step to one of the microphones and state your name and address and make your presentation. No comment or testimony shall be shouted from the audience.

However, the agenda prohibits addressing comments or questions to the developer or county staff:

All comments are to be directed to the Commission, including inquiries requiring staff response. Time limitations shall be at the discretion of the Chair or Commission.

Tonight's special meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Little Theater, Building 1200 at .

The developer's slide show from the Feb. 21 meeting accompanies this article.

For more about the Napa Pipe development, including Michael Haley's traffic analysis and links to other reporting, please see our Napa Pipe topic page at napa.patch.com/topics/Napa-Pipe.

Suzin Porter March 19, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Is it really safe to build anything residential on the Napa Pipe site? The site has been home to several industrial endeavors from rock quarries, ship building, to a steel plant for over 90 years. That's 90 years worth of chemicals, and waste products in the soil. this same soil is to be the foundation for a new community where families will raise their children. With the last shipments finished out around July and August of 2004 the property has been "sitting" for 7.5 years. Has the 90 years of pollution really been fixed in 7.5 years? If not, can they dig far enough down to get the remaining toxic soil? Do families really want to risk living and raising their children in such an area? Maybe we should stop trying to move more people to the Napa Valley and focus on improving transportation options to and from the valley. Why not focus on building a transit center using the rails already in place to connect us with the rest of the bay area? Building homes provides jobs for a short period of time in the valley. Assuming the contractors are local and they use Napa Valley residents. Building a transit center provides jobs for the long term, and helps the congestion on our local roads as well as around the Bay Area.
Louisa Hufstader March 19, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Hi Suzin, the developer would have to decontaminate the site before anything residential can be built. I recall him saying that would take a couple of years but the details are undoubtedly in the EIR, which you can find here: http://countyofnapa.org/NapaPipe/
Carol A. Mitchell March 19, 2012 at 09:43 PM
I’m against all the current proposals for Napa Pipe. We do not need another “city” in our valley when our schools are overcrowded, our teachers are being laid off, the traffic is terrible, our roads are in disrepair, our water table is shrinking, our home values have been decimated, etc., etc. Rather than place increased burdens on our infrastructure, we should focus on ways to make the Napa Valley more prosperous. I recently read that Napa is lacking in large commercial properties. The Napa Pipe property could solve that problem. With access to the river and rail so close, it’s the perfect location for a corporate park and light industry. Maybe we could lure some of the Bay Area tech companies up our way. This type of commercial development would encourage a more gradual population increase of a workforce that could afford to purchase the homes that are already here. In turn, this would create upward pressure on property values, which would benefit our struggling homeowners. I feel certain that a better solution for any state mandated housing increase could be developed.
Louisa Hufstader March 19, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Thank you for your comment, Carol, and for persevering despite having trouble getting signed on to the site. I want to let all readers know that if anyone is having a problem signing in to make a comment, 99 percent of the time I can fix that very rapidly if you let me know right away. Just email me at louisa.hufstader@patch.com and I will make it an immediate priority.
Maureen Savage March 20, 2012 at 08:22 PM
I have to say I agree with Carol. We need more jobs here so that we can afford the housing. I wouldn't mind a costco out there, nor would all the restaurants in town.

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