Vote on controversial Napa Valley vineyard plan delayed

A supervisor’s potential conflict of interest has been at center of Walt Ranch dispute

Alfredo Pedroza, District 4 Supervisor (Facebook/Alfredo_Pedroza, iStock)
Alfredo Pedroza, District 4 Supervisor (Facebook/Alfredo_Pedroza, iStock)

A vote on a new vineyard that some say could chart the future development of Napa Valley was postponed after a county supervisor recused himself because of accusations of a conflict of interest.

The exit of Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, whose father-in-law owns property adjacent to the property, leaves just four voting members to decide on a plan by billionaires Craig and Kathryn Hall’s to turn part of their property, Walt Ranch, into a vineyard, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. A tie vote would automatically approve the proposal for the underdeveloped rural area of Atlas Peak.

Tuesday’s vote, which supervisors agreed to postpone until April, will be a re-do of a greenhouse gas mitigation plan that the supervisors had approved in a 3-2 vote. About 40 protestors gathered at the Napa County Supervisors office on Tuesday, some with signs calling on Pedroza to resign over his failure to report the family connection.

“What has been troubling has been the personal attacks on our family,” Pedroza, who has denied any conflict of interest, said at the meeting. “I respect all of our individual stories, but what I’ve seen is disappointing. I’ve lost sleep over it. It’s impacted my family.”

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The dispute has attracted attention because it could spell the future of Napa Valley. It has pitted the interests of the wine industry against those who believe that property owners have been given too much latitude at the expense of the land.

Meantime, wealthy investors are buying out family-owned vineyards. South Korea’s giant Shinsegae recently paid $250 million for one such operation.

[San Francisco Chronicle] — Gabriel Poblete

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