PETER JENSEN, Napa Valley Register 3/28/12
A Napa County attorney last week issued a sweeping denial of a Coombsville resident’s claims that the county’s proposal to build a pump station in Skyline Park was illegal and should not be built.
The county Board of Supervisors voted last month to spend $95,000 to help pay to extend a recycled water pipeline from Napa State Hospital along East Imola Avenue to the northwest corner of the park, where it would connect to a planned pump station serving a future water line to Coombsville.
That’s one part of a project to eventually extend the pipeline out to Hagen Road and Napa Valley Country Club, and provide 1,000 acre-feet of recycled water from the Napa Sanitation District to the heart of the water-deficient Coombsville area.
An attorney for Penny Lane resident Kathy Felch sent the county a cease-and-desist letter on Feb. 28. Felch said Wednesday that she had yet to form a legal response to the county’s letter or decide her next move.
The state is selling Skyline Park to the county. Felch contends that constructing the pump station would violate the state law allowing the sale.
The law states that the county will use the entire park as a park or wilderness preserve. Felch’s letter argues that the pump station would, thus, be an illegal industrial use.
In his March 22 response, Napa Deputy County Counsel Robert Paul asserted that the state could simply exempt from the sale agreement a part of the park for the pump station, and still comply with the law.
Paul also argued that even if the entirety of the park was sold, the pump station could be considered a compatible use because it’s located near urbanized uses — parking lots, a horse corral area, large barn structure and Napa Valley Unified School District facilities.
Felch’s letter contended that the pump station was inconsistent with the county’s Skyline Wilderness Park master plan, which states that the park’s uses be consistent with preservation of its natural resources.
Paul wrote in response that the county didn’t agree, and noted that case law allows the county to exempt itself from its own zoning regulations and that county code allows public utilities in any zoning district with a use permit.
Felch’s letter also asserted that building the pump station would violate a state wilderness protection law, but Paul dismissed that claim, and argued that the law didn’t apply to Skyline Park because it has roads, buildings and a trailer park near its entrance on East Imola.
These elements would not be compatible with how the law defines a wilderness area as having “no commercial enterprises, no temporary or permanent roads, and no form of mechanical transport,” Paul wrote.
Felch said Paul’s letter did not dissuade her from continuing to fight the county to stop the pump station from being built.
“It certainly carries a message for us, and it carries a message for the rest of Napa,” Felch said. “But we’re not dissuaded from our position. There are limits to the county’s ability to act.”