December 2016, Angwin Land Use Designation Resolved
County supervisors ended a decade-long dispute over the so-called Angwin planning “bubble” by deciding 16 acres along the village’s main drag should be designated for agriculture, watershed and open space, at least for now.
The land had been designated for city-style housing under the county’s General Plan. That was a potential development bubble along Howell Mountain Road that many Angwin residents wanted to see popped.
“It has always been a place for raising crops and for students to play soccer or baseball,” said Duane Cronk of Save Rural Angwin.
Pacific Union College, which is located in this village of about 3,000 residents in the mountains east of St. Helena, had a different view. It wanted the Board to designate the land as public institutional for future college use.
Agricultural, watershed and open space “is just not the right fit for a core campus area, period,” Beth Painter told supervisors on behalf of the college.
Supervisor Diane Dillon suggested the agricultural designation, given the college has no plans on how to use the property. She called that a “starting place” for future discussions.
None of the supervisors are saying the college might not someday develop this land, Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said. Because of the “bubble” status, future boards could change the general plan designation to public institutional without a Measure P vote of the people. “What I think we’re doing with this is setting a high bar for community interaction on that piece,” Wagenknecht said.
The Board approved the agricultural designation by a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Mark Luce dissenting. Luce wanted to change the land use designation from urban residential to public institutional, as the college desired. “Yes, it’s a very sensitive piece of property, but it’s also a very vital property to the college,” Luce said.
The Board decision did more than wrap up the Angwin bubble situation last week. It ended the bigger Napa County bubble saga.
Napa County during the 1980s created 12 planning bubbles in locations ranging from Angwin to Partrick Road near Napa to Deer Park to Berryessa Estates to Moskowite Corner. These were rural areas marked roughly on the county planning map as land that could be used for urban or rural housing.
“Someone took a pen and drew circles on the general plan map,” Dillon said.
Supervisors in December 2008 reconfigured the bubbles and re-designated 1,800 acres for agriculture. But the Board approached the Angwin bubble in a more methodical fashion, given plans by PUC to develop an “eco-village” of several hundred homes.
Since then, the eco-village idea has died, the Board has shrunk the Angwin bubble and Save Rural Angwin and PUC have compromised on land use designations for most of the remaining parts of the bubble. That 16-acre field became the final area of dispute.
“The green fields west of Howell Mountain Road have been (agricultural) for 100 years and only the most speculative development concepts from PUC have ever thought to change it, the latest idea being a fitness center,” said Allen Spence of Save Rural Angwin. “A fitness center in Angwin? Really?”
PUC President Heather Knight also made a pitch to the Board.
“I think our neighbors - Save Rural Angwin, for example - keep saying, ‘This is open space, we love to drive into Angwin and see that,’” Knight said. “But it’s really private property. It is private property for the college.”
Although the college has no plans for the property now, the school is in the midst of a larger planning effort.
“We just don’t want our hands tied there,” she said.
But supervisors didn’t see their move to create the agricultural designation in that light. That pleased Save Rural Angwin, which formed in 2006 as Angwin growth wars began heating up.
“We’re very pleased,” said Mike Hackett of Save Rural Angwin. “We’ve been working a long time for this.”