Jan 20, 2017

Vote of 4:1 Saves the Green Fields
from Future Development
On December 20, the Napa County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to not approve development of any kind on the green fields across Howell Mountain Road and the core campus of Pacific Union College. The announcement was greeted with rejoicing among numerous Angwin residents and land conservation leaders.
County supervisors have the responsibility to govern their planning of any land, even in Angwin, by labeling it with a specific designation. In this case they voted that the green fields should be treated (as is all similar land in Napa County) under the designation AWOS (Agriculture, Watershed and Open Space). They recognized that the green fields have been farmed for 100 years. The existing college athletic fields can continue under the AWOS designation as OS (Open Space).
The news came as a signal victory for Save Rural Angwin which has campaigned for preservation of the green fields for a decade. Opposition to massive development of the green fields has come also from individual members of the Sierra Club and the Napa County Farm Bureau.
PUC hay field
The Historic Background of County Decisions
The Napa County supervisors' new designation of the green fields for the future should come as no surprise. It was the logical reaction to a Pacific Union College policy decision in December 2002 to sell almost all of the land surrounding its campus. When a proposal arrived for 580 new dwellings, many would have covered the green fields. The 2002 decision was made by a governing board headquartered in southern California with no knowledge of Napa County land use policies. No knowledge of how religiously this county supports the conservation of agricultural land and open space.
They did not know, also, that both county and state planners do not believe that this village on top of Howell Mountain is the place for urbanization. First, because there are few jobs here and residents not affiliated with PUC must drive to work in St. Helena, Napa or Santa Rosa. Second, because Angwin does not have the infrastructure to support more residential subdivisions here. Half the households here are dependent on a well for water and a private septic system in the back yard.
The board's decision to sell its meadows and woodlands produced resentment among a number of Adventist residents also, who believe that the natural environment is a basic component of PUC education. The faculty observer at the 2002 board meeting was appalled at the board's decision. He reported that "the choice to solve our money problems by extensive land sales could end up being as controversial as the choice to tear down Irwin Hall, with similar unsettling, unpredictable, and unintended consequences."
The PUC board's proposal to pour concrete over hundreds of Angwin acres, including the green fields, has cost it a decades of good will, produced very little money, created a wave of resentment among church members and finally led to a 4 to 1 vote of opposition by Napa County supervisors. Such are the "unsettling, unpredictable, and unintended consequences" of an uninformed decision.
Now some good news . . .Pacific Union College is working today with the Land Trust of Napa County to grant a conservation easement over 864 acres of its forest east of the airport. It will guarantee that the forest will not be developed. Story and map coming.