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Napa comes up roses in Greenbelt risk analysis

Napa County is far less threatened with development today than the Greenbelt Alliance, a land conservation group, believed six years ago.

A new Greenbelt Alliance report classifies 6,500 acres as at risk for development today. This acreage mostly surrounds the cities of Napa, St. Helena and American Canyon. That’s down from 22,200 acres Greenbelt classified as being at risk in 2006.

The report, released Tuesday, lists 322,000 acres of land in the Bay Area that the Greenbelt Alliance considers at risk for development in the next 10 to 30 years.

The alliance is a land conservation and urban planning organization that works to preserve greenbelts between cities.

Greenbelt Policy Director Stephanie Reyes said her organization did new analysis of Napa County’s growth management policies for the report released Tuesday, which helps explain the change from the 2006 report.

In factoring in how those policies, including the county’s Measures J and P that effectively bar development of agricultural land and prevent sprawl, Reyes said her organization concluded that only 6,500 acres was at risk in Napa County.

Another factor, she said, was the collapse of the housing market bubble that helped trigger the economic downturn of 2007 and 2008. There is now less pressure to build housing in the county.

“We have a much clearer picture,” Reyes said. “As a regionwide organization we really have nothing but good things to say about Napa County. It’s a very, very impressive story, what Napa’s been able to do.”

Sandy Elles, executive director of the Napa County Farm Bureau, attributed the reduced development threat to the passage of Measure P in 2008, which renewed Measure J for another 50 years, and the potential reduction in the county’s housing allocations from the state.

“Those two factors create a much more secure future for farmland and open space,” Elles said.

Napa County has more than 444,000 acres of land under permanent or high levels of protection from development, according to the report.

Napa County Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said the report recognizes the work that the county and the cities have done to keep development within city limits and out of the unincorporated area.

“It really does go to speak to what we’re trying to do,” Wagenknecht said. “It’s nice that that’s coming to be recognized.”

Wagenknecht said the areas the report lists as at risk around St. Helena, Napa and American Canyon will require future work to manage growth. Those areas have long been on the county’s radar for development, he said.

The city of Napa’s urban-growth boundary has been static since 1983, while American Canyon’s, which was reconfigured in 2008, should be stable until at least 2030, he said.

“The ones that are in danger are the ones we’ve known are in danger,” Wagenknecht said. “It’s good work from the cities and the county. It’s the two parts working together.”

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