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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.”


BARRY EBERLING October 31, 2016

Napa County supervisors are hoping long-running land use disputes in rural Angwin amid the forested hills of Howell Mountain east of St. Helena are nearing an end.  Save Rural Angwin and the village’s biggest landowner, Pacific Union College, appear to agree on many issues. A proposed “eco-village” housing development targeted for college-owned land a few years ago that led to a bitter battle is no longer on the table. One outstanding issue is whether a field along Howell Mountain Road – a major street in this village of about 3,000 people - should be designated for agriculture and open space or for future college uses.

“I do think it’s worth commenting that this was war early on. And we're getting very close on this,” county Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said when the Board of Supervisors discussed the issue on Oct. 18.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Alfredo Pedroza credited the progress to Save Rural Angwin and the college.
“And government wasn’t involved,” Pedroza said as the Board held its first Angwin discussion since 2014. “It was you guys doing your job and we appreciate that.”

Now the Board of Supervisors would like the two parties to agree on that large field. That could lead to the Board in coming months resolving the remaining rural Angwin “urban bubble” issues after almost a decade of on-and-off work.  Napa County when it revised its General Plan in 2008 identified the Angwin “urban bubble” as needing further study. This bubble was an imprecise planning area left over from the 1983 General Plan where agricultural land could be rezoned for development without a countywide Measure J vote.
  The Board of Supervisors later in 2008 removed 76 parcels totaling 400 acres owned by PUC from the bubble. That left 100 acres that could be developed.

Amid all of this was the dispute over the proposed, so-called Angwin eco-village that was to have 591 homes, then 380 homes. This development by Triad Communities would have brought in money for the PUC endowment.  As a result, Save Rural Angwin formed with the stated purpose to oppose any PUC development its members thought would destroy the rural environment of the small community.

The county in 2009 left 63 acres of PUC land available for the eco-village. Save Rural Angwin in 2012 spearheaded efforts to pass Measure U to strip eco-village land of development potential, but county voters rejected it.  Eco-village proposals petered out a few years ago.  “I just have to say, ‘The eco-village is dead,’ ” PUC President Heather Knight said at the Oct. 18 Board meeting, moving her hands for emphasis. “I can’t say that loudly enough. And I know some of the distrust between Save Rural Angwin and PUC came from that project.”

Save Rural Angwin and PUC now agree on a mixture of land use designations for much of the college-owned land once targeted for the eco-village. Supervisors talked of creating a new Angwin college zoning category to resolve some possible zoning questions.  But that 25-acre field along Howell Mountain Road that was also to be part of the eco-village remains a sticking point. It is presently designated for urban residential uses. Knight asked the Board to re-designate it for public institutional uses such as classrooms or a wellness center.
“We’re not planning for a big housing development there,” Knight said. “We’re not planning for an eco-village.”

Allen Spence of Save Rural Angwin said Knight began rebuilding trust in the community when she became college president in 2009.
  “It’s a dilemma, though,” Spence said. “There is no one single answer that works in this situation – unfortunately – that makes everybody happy.”  Spence said PUC has no major, specific project planned for the field. Save Rural Angwin asked the Board to re-designate the field for agriculture and open space, adding it has been used for agriculture for decades.

Lucio Perez of Napa County Farm Bureau said the field is important for the view people see as they drive on Howell Mountain Road through Angwin. He acknowledged the college has needs, but said they can be met elsewhere on the campus.  He cautioned against infringing on an area he said is “quite breathtaking."

St. Helena Hospital President Steven Herber brought another viewpoint to the Angwin discussion - a desire to create more housing. The hospital is located a couple miles from PUC and like PUC is a Seventh-Day Adventists institution.  “We have a lot of challenges, but housing is really one I think you can help us with,” Herber told supervisors. “I’m amazed at how difficult it is to recruit and retain nurses. And nurses are very well compensated, but they can’t afford to live in the Napa Valley.”

After a session of about an hour-and-a-half, supervisors and the public had their say. Supervisors want PUC and Save Rural Angwin to continue collaborating to try to resolve the remaining issues.

Mike Hackett of Save Rural Angwin said Thursday that he believes the Board of Supervisors will be fair about the issue.  “My personal ambition is to get this accomplished before the new Board is sworn in next year, because this Board is experienced about this issue for the last 10 years,” Hackett said.

HME to expand College Market
FOR THE STAR Updated Jun 22, 2016

Jesse Duarte/Star

In the next several months, the offerings at Angwin’s College Market will be expanded, including a new deli.

Howell Mountain Enterprises will expand and renovate the College Market over the next several months.

Responding to community feedback, HME, a wholly owned for-profit subsidiary of Pacific Union College, is now planning to revitalize the commercial area by creating a Napa Valley-style specialty market, which will include a new gourmet deli, café and salad bar among other amenities.

“Our goal is to better serve our college community and our local neighbors,” said PUC President Heather J. Knight. “Many of our students and neighbors have to drive down the hill for items our market has not historically carried, leading to greater traffic and safety issues, vehicle use, and a strain on our local environment. We want to respond and better provide for many of our community’s needs right here in Angwin with products that are fully in line with our traditional focus on health and wellness.”

In the last few months, Charles Stout, the newly hired general manager for the College Market, has increasingly sourced the freshest produce directly from nearby local farmers, markets and wholesale suppliers and has also adopted an aggressive pricing structure.

Stout, an experienced grocer, brings a wealth of merchandising, sales and procurement, and food retailing experience to his new position. A new focus for the market will be expanding the organic fresh produce and grocery offerings.

The plans also call for Bon Appétit Management Company, PUC’s current food service provider, to establish a full-service gourmet deli, café and salad bar inside the market. It will offer a variety of freshly prepared foods, sandwiches and soups.

The expansion is part of a larger HME initiative to help build community in Angwin by creating more of a town square atmosphere in the current commercial area.
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