FAIRFIELD — Jelly Belly Station could someday be born as a tourist destination and Suisun Valley gateway at the old Cadenasso Winery site near Interstate 80, Abernathy Road and Suisun Valley Parkway.
It could have a hotel with 120 to 140 rooms, a gas station with 12 pumps and a market selling Jelly Belly products and Suisun Valley produce, according to preliminary papers filed with Fairfield. It could have a California tourist center. It could have a tour bus transfer station, where visitors could get rides to Jelly Belly to the east and rural Suisun Valley to the northwest.
Or Jelly Belly Station might end up being something different.
“It changes,” said Herman Rowland, the chairman of the board of the Jelly Belly Candy Co. and owner of the land. “The way the economy is and the way it’s going with the state of California, it makes it very difficult to plan . . . but we have to start someplace.”
Rowland bought the former winery in 2004 and at the time talked of using the site to attract people to rural Suisun Valley, perhaps by having a large produce stand there selling valley produce. Suisun Valley is about 10,000 acres with vineyards, wineries, produce stands and farms, as well as a sprinkling of retail businesses and restaurants that are concentrated for the most part at Mankas Corner and Rockville Corner.
Solano County in 2010 adopted its Suisun Valley vision. The county’s Suisun Valley Strategic Plan describes the Rowland family property as being ideal to become one of eight possible agricultural tourist centers for the valley.
“This site should serve as the marquee gateway to the valley,” the plan said. “Although uses such as service stations and farm equipment sales will be allowed, they must be designed and placed carefully so they do not block views of the agricultural lands beyond. . . . A visitor’s center that serves the region would be an ideal use.”
Whatever is built should be carefully designed to maintain the rural character of Abernathy Road, it said.
Rowland said he hasn’t talked with all the Suisun Valley entrepreneurs to see what they might think of his proposals. Perhaps some people will be concerned that traffic on the rural valley roads might increase, he said.
“You try to do things that will enhance what happens in the valley,” Rowland said.
Preliminary plans for the Jelly Belly Station were filed with the Fairfield Community Development Department, even though the land is in the unincorporated, rural county. Solano County and the county Board of Supervisors control the land use for the site, not Fairfield and its City Council – at least for now.
“It’s part of the Suisun Valley plan,” Solano County Program Manager Mike Yankovich said. “However, we don’t have services – sewer and water. More than likely, anything large-scale would not be practical. . . . That’s why something large-scale is really urban and receives urban services.
“An opportunity is there, but it’s more on a small scale in the county, versus in the city.”
George Condon, a consultant for the Jelly Belly Station project, agreed that a hotel would be difficult to build if it had to depend on a septic system and wells, as most county rural developments do. The question is whether Fairfield could annex the property and under what circumstances.
A list of possible Fairfield annexation areas on file with the Local Agency Formation Commission does not include this particular site and the city has voter-approved growth boundaries. If the Jelly Belly Station site falls outside the growth boundaries – that appears to be the case, but the site is at the edge – Rowland might have to take his annexation proposal to a vote of the people if he wanted to pursue it.
The papers filed with the city are for a “conceptual review.” City Principal Planner Joe Lucchio said this gives the city a chance to comment on possible projects before proponents file a formal application.
Condon said the conceptual review should answer such questions as whether Fairfield could annex the land.
“I’m in no hurry,” Rowland said. “It’s something where you have to take the time, do it right, totally understand it and progress.”
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.