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Posted on: February 1, 2020

County News: Annual Report, cannabis, employee recognition & renewable energy

a thumbnail image of the 2019 annual report

Napa County’s 2019 Annual Report publishing in February


Napa County published its 2019 Annual Report in February, highlighting key accomplishments achieved last year by the Board of Supervisors and county government departments.

Modeled after the inaugural 2018 Annual Report, the 2019 edition incorporates the five pillars of Napa County’s Strategic Plan, and frames the content within these important goals. The five pillars are:

  • Safe & Welcoming Place to Live, Work and Visit
  • Livable Economy for All
  • Vibrant and Sustainable Environment
  • Collaborative & Engaged Community
  • Effective and Open Government

Within each of the report’s five sections are brief stories and other information that provide a snapshot of county government successes last year. These include achievements in areas such as public health, affordable housing, natural resource management and Climate Change, and community engagement.

The report also provides a breakdown of county expenditures and revenues for 2019, along with a joint message from the Board of Supervisors and County Executive Officer Minh Tran.

Printed copies of the 2019 report will be available in county offices beginning in February. The report will also be published in the March issue of Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine.

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County to host cannabis information workshops in March

Napa County will host two public workshops in March on the subject of legalized commercial cannabis businesses to provide information and gather community input.

The Board of Supervisors in 2019 adopted an ordinance prohibiting all commercial cannabis activities in unincorporated areas of the county, including outdoor cultivation and dispensaries. They also decided to conduct more outreach on the issue in 2020 to better gauge community opinion.

The first workshop will be held on March 25, 2020 at Napa Valley College. The second one will be on March 26, 2020 at St. Helena High School.

Both workshops will feature a panel of speakers from outside Napa County who are experts on commercial cannabis and the issues surrounding it. The workshops will include time for questions and answers between the audience and the panel.

Spanish translation services will be available at both meetings. More information and details on these meetings will be available soon.

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County honors public employees with new recognition program

Beginning in April, County employees who exemplify the values most cherished by Napa County government will be recognized at Board of Supervisors meetings.

The Values in Practice (VIP) program will honor County workers nominated by their peers who have demonstrated one or more of the following: respect, accountability, innovation, dedication and integrity.

All nominees must be in good standing to receive recognition as a VIP (Values in Practice) honoree.

A Review and Selection Committee comprised of staff from the County Executive Office, Human Resources, and Community Engagement will review all nominations. The committee will notify all department directors of nominations, as well as selected VIPs.

VIPs will have their picture and their nomination submission showcased on the VIP Spotlight page on the County’s intranet, Chardonnay. They will also be acknowledged at a Board of Supervisors meeting once per month starting in April and receive a Certificate of Acknowledgment.

County staff can nominate a fellow worker by sending an email to InternalCommunications@countyofnapa.org. Nominations should include a brief description of how the individual demonstrates one or more of the County’s adopted values, plus name and contact information of nominator and nominee, their department and division, and name of nominee’s supervisor or manager.

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County adopts renewable energy ordinance


In an era where sustainability is a big concern, Napa County has adopted a new ordinance governing the development of renewable energy production.

The Renewable Energy Ordinance, adopted by the Board of Supervisors in January, established new rules for the creation of solar farms as well as other forms of renewable energy.

“It really was time for the renewable energy ordinance to come along,” said John McDowell, Supervising Planner in the Department of Planning, Building and Environmental Services, who wrote the ordinance.

In recent years there have been requests to build large solar arrays to generate electricity for the state’s power grid. McDowell said the prior County code needed updating to handle these kinds of new and complicated approvals.

The new ordinance addresses requirements for building new commercial renewable energy facilities, as well as for adding solar to existing homes and businesses.

As for new renewable energy commercial projects, the ordinance allows for the development of either solar or bio-energy facilities. “There won’t be any coal-burning or nuclear power plants in Napa County,” McDowell said.

Wind is another renewable energy option available in many places. But it’s not likely to happen in the Napa Valley because it is not ideal for this kind of power generation, according to McDowell.

Napa County did have a Small Wind Energy Ordinance at one time—something the state of California mandated long ago for all counties—but it expired. The Renewable Energy Ordinance has replaced it.

Even with the new rules intended to facilitate new solar farms, there are limitations on where such facilities could be located in the county. They’re allowed only in areas zoned for industrial parks or commercial districts “that don’t have an underlying agricultural use,” McDowell said. “The County’s commitment to protecting farmland remains our top priority.”

“The biggest challenge for commercial solar projects is the fact that much of the unincorporated land in the county is designated for agriculture use,” he said. That still leaves about 2,500 acres available in the valley for renewable energy.

Currently, there is only one solar farm in operation, located off American Canyon Road near Highway 80. The developer of that project, Renewable Properties, has approval to build a second commercial solar facility, this one off Soscol Ferry Road.

Planning, Building, and Environmental Services began processing this new request while drafting the new ordinance, and made sure it complied with the new rules adopted by the Board of Supervisors.

In addition to solar, the ordinance addresses the development of new bio-energy facilities, such as renewable energy derived from biological sources. Biomass is one example.

The only existing bio-energy plant in the county is with Upper Valley Waste Management, which uses a wood-burning engine to process clean waste instead of burying it in a landfill.

McDowell said the new ordinance requires that any new bio-energy facility be carbon neutral so it doesn’t contribute to air pollution or Climate Change.

“The ordinance is written in a fashion where if new technology emerges, we have the ability to add that into the ordinance with future updates,” he said.

The other portions of the Renewable Energy Ordinance codify existing practices for homes or businesses installing renewable energy equipment.

“We allow businesses, for example, to install solar panels in their parking lots,” McDowell said, as long as they’re producing energy to off-set electrical bills, not to sell back to the grid.

The ordinance also codifies the use of emergency generators by homes or businesses during a disaster or a Public Safety Power Shutoff.

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