Opinion on current and future development in the City of Winters

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Claudia Horvath

Guest Columnist
I am concerned about the plans already in place and plans being put into place for developing housing and commercial enterprises in Winters.
The city approved the big hotel project, which is still under construction with an unclear date for actual opening.  I have read the General Plan that the City Manager John Donlevy and the city council members tout as being the document that sets the goals for city development and that they are purportedly following.
Anyone can read the Winters General Plan, 1992, just look it up on the internet.
In the General Plan, under Goal IIIF, IIIF1 clearly states that the city will require any new development to provide adequate off-street parking, ideally behind the proposed building. The hotel will have a restaurant and over 65 rooms. The parking lot behind the hotel has about half that many parking spaces. How is this remotely adequate parking? Where are the guests, restaurant customers and staff going to park?
The city approved this particular development without following the general plan requirement. The less than adequate parking for this business will result in their patrons parking in the visitor parking lots the city provides and elsewhere in the neighborhoods. This will leave less parking for all the  patrons frequenting other businesses, like the Buckhorn, Putah Creek Cafe, Preserves, Ficelle, etc. These visitors will have a difficult time finding parking for their evening out.  If this becomes a big enough issue, downtown Winters will become a less desirable destination for meals and visits. I know I would avoid a visit if parking was problematic, as I predict it will be once the hotel is actually open.
The reason I am bringing up this existing project is because Donlevy and his cohorts insist that they are following the General Plan when they push for Bellvue, a large proposed development in the north of the city.  They have said that the city residents just need to be “educated” to their point of view on this project. They have already shown that they will ignore the general city plan when it goes against their own plans, as they did with the hotel project and the required parking goal. They ignored the parking issue, even though it was brought up at meetings before approval was granted. Why would we believe that they will follow the General Plan for any future development, especially one as contentious as the Bellvue project. Why would we believe that they will do what is in the best interest for Winters and its residents?
Many residents are not in favor of the Bellvue housing project. The facts that the General Plan was not followed with already approved projects and the previous questionable communications between the developer and the city manager are just a few good reasons for the distrust between the city officials and the Winters residents. I agree with Peter Hunter, who wrote an opinion in last week’s paper, the city should put a moratorium on further housing development until an informed and rational decision based on comprehensive input from residents as well as experts from outside the city can be made.
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