Last week, the Saratoga City Council voted to terminate the Mountain Winery Annexation Project, which would have allowed a 300-room hotel to be built in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
We strongly opposed the project due to potential impacts to the surrounding landscape and wildlife, as well as the risk to public safety from locating a 300-room hotel on a narrow, winding road where emergency access and evacuation is already a concern. As reported in the Mercury News, a hotel on this site would have resulted in the traffic, lights, noise and disturbance to wildlife being continuous throughout the year instead of only on weekend summer concert nights.
Mountain Winery, in the Santa Cruz Mountains west of Saratoga, has operated as a winery and outdoor concert venue for decades. Established as a nonconforming use and subsequently granted expansion rights under a permit from Santa Clara County, Mountain Winery has now exhausted most of their development potential under County zoning regulations. Per those regulations, a hotel could not be constructed here — only a 6-room bed-and-breakfast would be allowed.
The proposal for the City of Saratoga to annex the Mountain Winery property included the potential for a hotel of up to 300 rooms on site. Although the City Council could have voted for a smaller hotel at last week’s meeting, the Environmental Impact Report, zoning amendment, and General Plan amendment all contemplated a 300-room hotel. This meant that a future City Council could have easily changed the project back to the original 300-room plan.
After an 8-hour meeting with over 140 people virtually attending, the City Council voted in a 3-2 split to terminate the annexation project. While we’re thankful that a majority on the Council listened to the public, the hotel proposal could still return. Indeed, one of the winery’s owners stated in a letter to the City Council that he intends to continue pursuing this development.
Thank you to those who submitted emails to the City Council asking them to terminate this project — your voice does make a difference!