Saturday, February 24, 2007

To Develop or Not to Develop

The continuing struggle about the money development brings to the community versus those who want it to stay as it is, for whatever reasons.

The arguments create difficulties for those trying to choose sides as both camps often couch their arguments in apocalyptic terms, but generally just by looking around us (unless all you like about the world is wilderness) one can see that development is key to community building, while restraining its excesses (which each community needs to define) are always good public policy concerns.

Mill project poses Delta dilemma
Clarksburg toasts winery, but debts mount as key housing plan put on hold.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga - Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, February 24, 2007

In the eyes of Yolo County's top politicians, John Carvalho Jr. is rejuvenating local agriculture, one wine bottle at a time.

Carvalho's renovation of an old sugar beet processing plant on the Sacramento River in Clarksburg into a picturesque winery and reception facility has received universal applause as a valuable addition to the farming and tourism economy of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Earlier this month, Carvalho hosted one of his biggest crowds ever when about 1,200 people came to the Old Sugar Mill over two days to sip port and nibble on chocolate as part of the local wine industry's annual Valentine's Day celebration.

"It's been fantastic," Yolo Supervisor Mike McGowan said of the winery's role in processing local grapes and attracting tourists.

But Carvalho's proposal to build 162 housing units next to the winery has divided Clarksburg and prompted the state's Delta Protection Commission to flex its muscle for the first time.

On Thursday, the commission confirmed its earlier ruling that the proposed development violates the Delta Protection Act, which is designed to protect the rural nature of the heart of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

In making their decision, commissioners cited questions about the adequacy of levees protecting the site, among other things.

The commission stayed construction on the project and kicked it back to Yolo County, which can either try to revise it or challenge the ruling in court. County officials say they haven't decided what they will do.

For Carvalho, any further delay is something he can ill afford. The developer is facing about $5 million in claims from contractors and suppliers who have filed suit, saying they weren't paid for their work on the sugar mill, according to documents filed in Yolo Superior Court.