Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Napa Confidential: Another election's being sweated

                            The Plot Thickens
                                                      The Private I                          

                       More from Nose's citizen investigator:

     John Pritzker, the father of the current John Pritzker, was a member of Meadowood Resort for years, and owned one of the few 40-acre parcels adjoining the resort next to Bill Harlan's property. In 1996 Pritzker decided to sell his 40 acres, and soon thereafter passed away.
    He had been a member of Meadowood, but what the new owner, HRV, if it built a hotel there wouldn't be competing with Meadowood if accurately portrayed by developer Richard Harmon of HRV who says their project would have more moderately priced rooms than those in other proposals by outfits like like Bald Mountain Development and HMS Development. ( This is related to Las Alcobas and Starwood, now Marriott. Click "developers" and you will see that Marriott does all of its own development.
    I don't expect this to knock out Four Seasons (Bald Mountain), since that's a different Saudi, but if either of the other two projects are stealths for Starwood, they might just depart quietly over the next several months because Starwood is now owned by Marriott.
    So much weighs on the outcome of the City Council election. If Mary Koberstein and Geoff Ellsworth are elected, they are protective of the residents of St. Helena and can encourage a third voice to join theirs and reject all resort proposals, yet so much damage can be done before new people take office in January. I am hoping it isn't irreversible damage and that help is on the way.
    St. Helena's City Manager says their budget forecasts of revenue from TOT [Transit Occupancy Tax] are conservative, but being off by $500,000 is a little too conservative. She must be aware that the Las Alcobas project is a Starwood project with a loyalty program.  She also advised that the city has secured new auditors.  That is a huge red flag to any banker, with a question "why?"
    An auditor is not responsible for reviewing "compliance with government contract issues," so as to the FEMA problem they were never required to examine the City's compliance with FEMA.  They would have only be responsible for seeing if there was proper "authority" for the signing of a $1.9 million check back to FEMA but then there have been no auditors for two years!
    It's going to be interesting with the election Nov. 8 and the water and waste water rate hearing Nov. 29. I'm hoping the composition of the City Council changes.
                (Next: The hotels that could eat St. Helena)

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