NAPA COUNTY -- The 154-acre mixed use development near the city of Napa known as Napa Pipe moved a few steps closer to reality on Tuesday after the Napa County Board of Supervisors voted to close public comment and have county staff spend the next two weeks ironing out a few final details for special zoning measures that would help facilitate the project's construction.

The board also discussed the early draft of a pact with the city of Napa over the half-billion-dollar project, providing the clearest picture yet of plans to address issues like the area's eventual annexation, the city's providing of surface water and the sharing of what the developer has said is a tax windfall of up to $4 million annually.

It was the fourth time that those items had been on the board's agenda, after a swell of public comment and continued questions pushed supervisors to return the measures to staff for additional work on three separate occasions since they first went before the board on Jan. 15. The vote, which would adopt the "Napa Pipe Zoning District" designation, water supply findings and general plan changes related to the project, is now planned for a fifth meeting on the topic on June 4.

County staff were directed to include direct mention of the nearby Napa River in the zoning change, as well as a directive to prioritize the employment of area residents in the project's construction and ongoing operation.

[caption id="attachment_73831" align="alignleft" width="192"] Keith Rogal[/caption]

If approved, the zoning change and related measures would then set into motion the deeper design process that would guide the look and layout of the residential and commercial development, said Keith Rogal, co-founder of the development firm Rogal + Walsh + Mol, which purchased the site with Farallon Capital Management in 2005 as Napa Redevelopment Partners LLC.

That work could be done before the end of the year, with initial site work and environmental remediation soon after, he said.

""We're now at a stage where there's a focus on the details," Mr. Rogal said. "It's indicative of the fact that the development plan and its components, and how they've been shaped over time, have come to a good point."

The development has drawn a steady stream of public comment since it was first proposed in 2007, and has evolved significantly from a proposal that once called for 3,200 housing units on the former industrial site. The current proposal involves an approximately 70 percent reduction to those units -- now less than 1,000 housing units including 140 units of affordable housing -- a 154,000-square-foot Costco Wholesale store, a 150-unit continuing care retirement center, a 150-room hotel and other community, warehouse and office space.

The current proposal follows recommendations that the county's Planning Commission proposed last year, one that has engendered an increased level of public support. Yet for the city of Napa, questions remain as to how to pursue a relationship with the county over a significant development that sits just beyond its borders. Formal talks to develop a memorandum of understanding began between city and county staff last November.

"We have gone from working against each other in an adversarial relationship to working with each other to develop the best project we can," said Keith Caldwell, supervisor for the eastern district that includes the city of American Canyon.

High among those concerns is the source for potable water for the development's homes and businesses. As currently proposed, Napa Pipe will receive the majority of its water from surface water sources in use by the city of Napa, and rely on groundwater only in cases of emergency. That relationship with the city, however, is still under negotiation, and another source may be pursued that includes a groundwater component if an agreement is not established.

In addition, both the county and the city have agreed to seek an extension of the city's sphere of influence and the eventual annexation of the site, which would ultimately entail a voter-approved measure, according to the draft memorandum of understanding provided by the city of Napa. If approved, non-residential portions would join immediately, while residential portions would join either when new permits are issued or automatically in 2022.

When that sphere is extended, an existing 45 to 55 percent property tax sharing agreement between the city and the county will then apply to housing within the Napa Pipe area. The county and the city tentatively agree to evenly split revenue from sources like sales tax and transient occupancy tax, with the city receiving 100 percent after annexation. Affordable housing credits will remain for the county, planners have said.

"We have to make decisions about this property while it's under our jurisdiction. We want to go forward in partnership with the city," said Hillary Gitelman, director of the county's planning, building and environmental services department, to the board.