Town Council: Meeting Notes – May 4th

You have another tasting room in Town.

The Town Council voted 4 – 1, with Council member Mohler opposed, to change the Use Permit at the current JCB Senses from retail to the 15th tasting room in Yountville. The Council rolled out the red carpet with their enthusiasm to welcome back Cornerstone Cellars. When the Planning Department completed the Staff Report presentation, and it was time to question the staff on the project, Councilmembers Knight and Dorenbecher had already decided to move forward and began introducing conditions of approval. These Council members obviously needed no additional input as their minds were already made up.

Not one Public Comment was received.

The applicant, Kari Auringer, Winemaker and General Manager of Cornerstone Cellars, presented her business narrative for the space. They will be occupying the space with clothing designer TINA Stephens and Aerena art on the walls. The current ordinance states that a wine tasting room needs to have at least 25% of its space dedicated to retail, and this space will have at least 38%. There is also a separate entrance for the retail section of the building. As a result, the Council saw this as retail diversity for the Town of Yountville. The Vice Mayor, Kerri Dorman, even stated that this might be a local serving business because she saw the clothes online and gave an indication she would buy these clothes. The keyword here is “might.” I am still trying to get my head around why this wine tasting room is local serving, but Herron House is not? TINA Stephens does not make men’s clothes, so this is not my local serving business. Local serving business left the discussion many years ago, and it was forced into this conversation to justify a Use Permit change.

Space is 2,500 sq ft with the tasting room of 1,570 sq ft, and the retail will be 950 sq ft. Cornerstone Cellars will offer 20 indoor seats and small bite pairings, with the food being prepared offsite. They asked for 16 seats outside, which was not allowed, and plenty of mention, from the Council, of the Economic Recovery Plan and that they can apply for once their business is open. Based on all this, there will be two employees Monday – Thursday and four employees Friday – Sunday. The business will be a part of the Employee Parking Management Plan (EPMP) and be required to provide payroll information to ensure parking requirements are met. Another concerning part is that the Council had questions about parking and failed to act on them. Instead, as Council member Knight stated, “off-street parking may be a requirement.” There are 14 tasting rooms in Town, and we have an EPMP; the requirements are in place. The Council should handle this at this time, not when the business comes back to ask for forgiveness.

The Mayor, John Dunbar, did make a point that “until other ideas come forward, I will welcome a community partner.” When they were in Yountville, the previous community involvement of Cornerstone was espoused as another reason for making the Use Permit change allowing a tasting room in a retail space. I can understand this BUT not sure if others have had the opportunity to come forward. The Economic Recovery Plan is in place. Visitors are returning. We have lost retail to Napa, and those shops are thriving.

Council member Mohler, in her explanation as to why she could not support the Use Permit change pointed to our community of residents and guests as the focus and summed it up perfectly, “… another wine tasting room with custom blended nuts and wall art.”

The meeting did start on a positive note with proclamations for Arbor Day, Public Works Appreciation Month, and 52nd Annual Municipal Clerks Week. And the item very important to me: June 2021 Pride Month and the Pride Flag raising on June 1. So very proud of my Town.

The Measure S Affordable and Workforce Oversight Committee gave a quick overview of what they are about and the fact that there is $928,760 available as of Sept 22, 2021. Measure S is funded by a 1% tax on our visitors’ stay at the hotels and is expected to generate $700,000 a year as a flexible funding source related to the generation of deed-restricted housing and workforce housing, invest in property, and provide subsidies to builders for deed-restricted housing.

Water Emergency Regulations were put into place because we have received only 33-45% of average rainfall, and groundwater is at 55-68%. The Town will post watering schedules, and hotels and restaurants will have additional requirements. The Town will also adjust billing policies to ensure compliance and reduction in water usage. We were successful in 2015 to a 28% reduction with the same program.

The Town renewed its lease with the Post Office and will be seeing an increase of its current lease rate of $146,500 to $180,000, July 1, 2022, for 5 years, $194,400 July 1, 2027. A $36,000 broker commission needs to be paid for the approved national broker required by the federal government, and the Town will make the payment in two payments over two fiscal periods.

The Town and Samantha Holland, Parks and Recreation Director, were excited to present the Parks and Recreation Master Plan idea and were looking for input from the Council on moving forward. The Town will complete this in-house. Parks and Rec are asking for $15,000 at today’s budget meeting for contract services to hire consultation for credibility reasons that the Town Staff is not guiding the discussion and the that public is being heard. Staff desires to have something be historical in nature and, as the Mayor stated, “… have a vision for Yountville that might go beyond our time in Yountville.”

Again, you have another tasting room in Town.

Watch the meeting or see the full agenda and supporting documents.

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