Fight Continues Over Lot-Line Adjustments in Napa County

The Sierra Club and a Napa resident have filed separate appeals of two Napa County Superior Court rulings that upheld Napa County’s policy on allowing “successive” lot-line adjustments involving four or fewer parcels.
The County’s policy on lot-line adjustments first came under assault in connection with long-time grape grower and vintner, Will Nord, whose company, Calness Vintners, represented by Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty, applied to reconfigure six existing legal parcels in the unincorporated area of Napa County on the eastern boundary of the Town of Yountville.  Residents of an adjacent residential subdivision, led by Carol Vendrillo, appealed the County’s ministerial approval of the second of two lot-line adjustments, claiming that State law required approval of a discretionary subdivision map.  The Napa County Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected the appeal, and Vendrillo sued.
Following Vendrillo’s lawsuit, the Board passed an Ordinance clarifying the County’s longstanding policy of allowing approval of lot-line adjustments to occur in succession as long as the prior lot-line adjustment had been recorded.  The Board’s rationale was that the State Subdivision Map Act is silent on the issue, leaving local governments free to decide whether to allow successive four-parcel lot-line adjustments or whether to “aggregate” the parcels previously involved in a lot-line adjustment with the parcels currently proposed for adjustment and require a subdivision map.  (A subdivision map is required where five or more parcels are being reconfigured and is a discretionary approval requiring CEQA review.)  The Sierra Club filed suit against the County over the Ordinance.
The November court rulings on both challenges firmly sided with the County.  According to the Court, “[I]f the legislature had intended to bring all sequential lot line adjustments within the purview of the Map Act, it easily could have used alternative language to make that intention clear.”  The ruling in the Sierra Club case also called out plaintiff’s counsel’s inability “to answer whether the court should also interpret into the statute a time limitation as to when the previous adjustment might have occurred.”  In other words, opposing counsel did not answer the question of whether lot-line adjustments occurring 5, 10 or 100 years apart should be considered “successive?”
For more information or assistance with land use matters in Napa County contact Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty at [email protected].
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