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Community members share concerns regarding Proposed Beverage Ordinance

  • Written by Kara Roth

Councilmembers Claudia Balducci and Kathy Lambert held a community meeting on June 4, 2019 to discuss the proposed winery, brewery and distillery code updates.  The meeting was held at Lake Washington United Methodist Church in Kirkland with approximately 140 people in attendance.  Councilmember Balducci shared she had called for this meeting after the topic was brought up at her town hall meeting and she thought a community meeting might be the best way to share information and gather feedback.  Councilmember Lambert opened with a statement that this proposed ordinance has been worked on for five years and that change is hard. 

Erin Auzins, King County Supervising Legislative Analyst, presented an overview of the proposed ordinance and how it differs from the current ordinance.  The presentation explained the regulations were comprehensively updated in 2003 and that the regulations have not kept up with the growth of wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries.  Councilmember Balducci said that the county doesn’t know where all the tasting rooms are in the county and they will have a year to get in compliance with the ordinance. 

Many questions were asked in regards to the changes and Councilmember Balducci took notes and promised to get the answers to the questions and share them with the public.  Full information on the ordinance can be found at

https://aqua.kingcounty.gov/Council/agendas/LSRRB/20190311-LSRRB-packet.pdf. 
The public comment section of the meeting was kicked off by the youngest members of the community.  Three children were allowed to start the section  given the late hour.  Wyatt Conley chose to attend the meeting on his 10th birthday.  He shared he is worried the changes in the code will cause his neighborhood of Grousemont to be unsafe for him to ride his bike in.  The proposed ordinance would allow for tasting rooms to be around the entrance to the
neighborhood and there is concern that cars will be parking in their neighborhood similar to the parking situation around the old Hollywood Schoolhouse on a weekend. 

A number of comments were made questioning the environmental impact of allowing tasting rooms on rural lands.  Concerns were also raised about the SEPA report on the ordinance and how thorough it was in analyzing the impact to the Sammamish Valley farmlands.  SEPA is The State Environmental Policy Act which is a process that identifies and analyzes environmental impacts associated with governmental decisions.  The proposed ordinance was found to have a determination of nonsignificance based on the May 2019 SEPA.

Multiple farmers spoke about the need to protect their farmland and how difficult it is to buy more land in the valley due to speculators who are  buying the land at inflated costs.  They also mentioned King County Executive Dow Constantine’s commitment to protecting farmlands as outlined in the 2018 King County Land Conservation Initiative presentation.  One of the farmers spoke to the need for an Environmental Impact Study to be done as the proposed changes could damage the farmland of the valley.  Several people shared concern that pollution run-off from the tasting rooms will have a negative impact on the farm land and a study would clearly analyze the impact to the lands.
Several community members spoke in support of the ordinance change and the hope that the wineries and the community can work together for a balanced approach. 

The public hearing regarding ordinance is June 12, 2019 at 10:30 am at 516 Third Avenue, room 1001. The Council is still accepting written comments.

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