NAPA County hears proposals for airport development

The Napa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday expressed support for several proposals to provide an economic boost to the county’s airport area.

These include:

  • making it more business-friendly by streamlining the permitting process for developments in the area
  • identifying ways to reduce utility costs
  • rebuilding a runway 
  • improving road access.

The airport has experienced an economic slowdown recently, with Japan Airlines, a tenant for more than three decades, departing, and 13 percent of
its industrial space and 27 percent of its office space vacant. 

A blue ribbon committee of business leaders, Realtors and developers put together the proposals, and asked the board to identify which should be of
higher priority.

The matter will return before the board with staff recommendations on how to move forward on the proposals, said Larry Florin, the director of the
county’s Housing and Intergovernmental Affairs Department.

The supervisors placed high priority on improving road access in the area by expediting completion of the Devlin Road extension project. It would be the main north-south alternative to Highway 29 in the area, and would indicate to potential business clients that the county is committed to providing a
business-friendly environment.

“The committee is spot on the Devlin Road and doing that as quickly as possible,” Supervisor Bill Dodd said.

Another proposal would make it easier for developers to get permits by allowing staff, not the county Planning Commission, to approve permits for
uses already allowed in the airport area.

That would also help the perception of the airport area as business- friendly, Board Chairman Keith Caldwell said. He said he wants the Planning
Commission to weigh in on the idea; the commission will hear the proposal at its meeting on Feb. 1.

“I’m certainly for anything that would streamline or add certainty,” Caldwell said.

The board debated the best means of developing ways to reduce utility costs in the area. American Canyon provides most of the water in the area, while the Napa Sanitation District provides sewer.

The blue ribbon committee recommended that a separate committee of two representatives from American Canyon, two from the county and two from the city of Napa work on that issue.

Supervisor Mark Luce and Dodd questioned the effectiveness of that approach, and Luce worried it would take too long to solve the problem.

Luce said a more efficient approach would be having staff work with the sanitation district and American Canyon directly, as well as identify other
sources of water.

The supervisors also directed county attorneys to determine if one of the blue ribbon committee’s recommendations, rebuilding a runway at the airport, would need voter approval. 

Jeri Gill, CEO of Sustainable Napa County, said revitalizing the airport area would provide some diversity to county’s economy, as it could attract other businesses aside from wine and tourism.

“Maybe what we are looking for is not a mono-economy,” Gill said.

Napa Airport Information