At Risk in Napa County
Since 1971, Volker Eisele has grown grapes on his land in St. Helena. Volker, who served on the Greenbelt Alliance Board of Directors for many years, has no time for sentimentality. He remains a staunch fighter against sprawlThe process in which the spread of development across the landscape far outpaces population growth. The landscape sprawl creates has four characteristics: a population that is widely dispersed in low-density development; rigid separation of uses, so that homes, commerce and workplaces are segregated from one another; a network of roads laid out to separate land into huge blocks and offering poor access; and a lack of well-defined, thriving activity centers, such as downtowns and town centers. Most of the other features usually associated with sprawl – a lack of transportation choices, relative uniformity of housing options, and difficulty walking from place to place – result from these conditions. and was the driving force behind Measure J, Napa County’s landmark agricultural initiative that helped nurture its wine industry.
Measure J, approved in 1990, requires a two-thirds vote of county residents before agricultural land can be developed for anything other than agricultural uses. “If you analyze each step we have developed, it doesn’t look like much,” he says. “It’s the combined attributes that make a difference.” He adds, “Napa is swimming against the trend. When everyone else was developing, we put in the growth control measure.”
In 2008, the measure was renewed as Measure P, protecting the county’s rural character for another 50 years. “It passed with two-thirds of the vote, which shows the general consensus of the community,” he says. As a result of this long history of protection, Napa County has the lowest level of at risk land in the region, with only 1% of its acreage at risk of development. Volker is concerned about park closures, the loss of public land, and the growth of rural estates. Agricultural land in Napa County, unfortunately, is often sold into 100 to 200 acrea unit of area used in land measurement and equal to 43,560 square feet. This is approximately equivalent to 4,840 square yards, 160 square rods, 0.405 hectares, and 4,047 square meters. parcels for large estate homes. While growth at this scale may not seem significant, rural development that breaks up landscapes—for example, with fences around private lots—prevents wildlife migration and makes food production unrealistic.