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What is the Watson Ranch Specific Plan?

In 2014, American Canyon 1, LLC and the Newell Family, filed an application for the Watson Ranch Specific Plan for the area also known as the Town Center in the City’s General Plan.  The Town Center  property includes the old Portland Cement Factory Ruins now referred to as the Napa Valley Ruins & Gardens. Watson Ranch covers approximately 309 acres. The area is situated east of the of the Union Pacific/California northern Rail line, north of the Vintage Ranch neighborhoods, and west of the future extension of Newell Drive. The City’s General Plan requires the preparation of a Specific Plan for the Town Center Property.

The Public Hearing Draft Specific Plan includes two primary components as outlined below.

1. Residential neighborhoods containing: 

  • A total of 1253 residential units ranging from single-family homes to town homes and apartments
  • A new 10 acre elementary school site
  • Walkable neighborhoods
  • Segments of the Napa Valley Vine Trail and the River to Ridge Trail providing access to open space
  • Public parks and trails

2. The Napa Valley Ruins & Gardens area is envisioned as a new gathering place for residents and visitors and may include a variety of commercial uses such as: 

  • Commercial retail, office and mixed uses
  • A 200-room hotel
  • A food truck court and farmer’s market area
  • A community Plaza site and site for a 20,000 square foot community center
  • Winery
  • Restaurants 
  • Event Center
  • Venue for outdoor entertainment, in addition to other tourism and community uses

The Specific Plan also includes the extension of Newell Drive another 1.2 miles beyond where it currently ends near Donaldson Way to the northern WRSP boundary and the extension of Rio Del Mar from Broadway Street (State Route 29) eastward to the Newell Drive extension. Both these improvements providing additional access in and through the City as an alternative to SR 29.

The Public Hearing Draft of the Watson Ranch Specific Plan and the Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP) are available for public review. The Draft and Final Watson Ranch Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) are also available for public review.     

How did We Get Here?

Following the submittal of the application in 2014, and over the following two years, the City conducted a series of meetings with the Steering Committee; held several community workshops; met with the Parks and Community Services Commission and Open Space Advisory Committee; and held numerous Planning Commission and City Council Study Sessions. The first Public Review Draft Specific Plan was completed in May – June 2016. A Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) was completed and circulated for public comment on July 1, 2016. A comment hearing before the Planning Commission was held on July 28, 2016. The comment period of 45-days was extended twice in response to requests for extensions of time to comment. The ultimate close of the original public comment period was September 6, 2016. In January of 2017, the City Council held a study session on the project. This led to term sheet negotiations held over the following 9 – 12 months. On January 16, 2018, a term sheet was approved by the City Council. 

Following approval of the term sheet in January of 2018, refinements to the Specific Plan have been made. The environmental analysis has been updated in response to those refinements and the Development Agreement and Large Lot Vesting Tentative Map (LLVTM) have been prepared.  The decision was made to recirculate the Draft Environmental Impact Report (RDEIR) for public comment from July 3rd to August 16, 2018, because of the refinements in the Specific Plan and the length of time that has transpired since the circulation of the DEIR in 2016. Comments received during this public comment period were responded to as part of the Final EIR (FEIR).  

On September 20, 2018, the Planning Commission conducted an open study session on the General Plan Amendment, Specific Plan, Development Agreement and Large Lot Vesting Tentative Map. On October 4, 2018, the Planning Commission considered the Watson Ranch Specific Plan Project Final EIR, and recommended certification of the Final EIR to the City Council. The Planning Commission also considered the General plan Amendment, Specific Plan, Development Agreement and Large Lot Vesting Tentative Map and adopted resolutions recommending to the City Council, approval of all entitlements associated with the Watson Ranch Specific Plan Project. These include:

A. The Certification of the Watson Ranch Specific Plan Final Environmental Impact Report;
B. Approval of a General Plan Amendment addressing amendments to the land Use and Circulation Elements; 
C. Approval of the Watson Ranch Specific Plan;
D. Approval of the AC-1 Development Agreement; and,
E. Approval of the AC-1 Large Lot Vesting Tentative Map.

On October 16, 2018, the City Council considered the Planning Commission's recommendations and Certified the Final Watson Ranch Specific Plan Project EIR, adopted the General Plan Amendment and introduced the Ordinance adopting the Watson Ranch Specific Plan. On November 6, 2018, the City Council conducted the second reading of the Ordinance thereby adopting the Watson Ranch Specific Plan.

The AC-1 Development Agreement and the AC-1 Large Lot Vesting Tentative Map are still pending scheduling for City Council consideration.

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