Preserve idyllic Saratoga; reject 300 room Mountain Winery hotel

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Saratoga is a gem in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is a quiet, largely residential retreat from the bustle of nearby Silicon Valley. Its residents treasure the natural beauty and quiet lifestyle it affords.

Many homeowners living near the Mountain Winery were recently surprised to learn of a proposal by the Mountain Winery and Saratoga town elders for a major zoning change in the area that had been the works for many months. The city explained its plan to annex the winery from Santa Clara County and potentially allow construction of up to a 300 room hotel on the site. A project of this magnitude would forever change the character of the Saratoga foothills, and could set a dangerous precedent for future similar large scale developments in our area.

The neighbors in the foothills have major concerns about the possible effects on the local roads of a 300 room hotel at the Mountain Winery. Pierce Road is narrow and winding, and it is worrisome whether it can accommodate the amount of traffic that would accompany a massive construction project, and the traffic that would follow its completion. A business of this type would result in hundreds of guests, employees, and suppliers making their way up to it on a daily basis. The risks to life could be substantial if a fire similar to the Paradise one were to occur in the area. The number of cars trying to use Pierce as an emergency evacuation route could possibly overwhelm it resulting in many people trapped. One accident could greatly delay an evacuation in a fire emergency.

Aside from the aforementioned reasons this is a questionable idea, the aesthetic ones are not insignificant. The area abounds with natural beauty including wild turkeys, deer, mountain lions, and lovely forest. The high traffic volume and population density would likely take a toll on the wildlife. Nature is always the loser when large numbers of people move in.

This is a critical turning point for the town of Saratoga. In its current configuration, the Mountain Winery is enjoyed by the members of the local community, and is considered an asset. Permitting the winery to become a huge destination resort would forever change Saratoga's identity and open the door to other large scale development in the area. In addition, the negative impact such a project could have on fire safety, evacuation routes, and density would need to be clearly communicated and understood.

Please remove the zoning for the 300 room hotel at the Mountain Winery site from the annexation plan.