King County approves adult-beverage ordinance

  • Written by Madeline Coats
Woodinville's opposition turned out in force to
let their voices be heard. Madeline Coats


SEATTLE—A bus full of Woodinville environmental activists flooded the King County Council meeting room to express their opposition toward the adult-beverage ordinance Dec. 4. 

Fifty-three people testified against the proposed ordinance. Only two attendees spoke in favor of the revisions. The council ultimately voted 5-4 to approve the ordinance, with the addition of one amendment. 

The amendment requires production facilities to cap the number of events allowed per month at eight. The revised ordinance had not set a limit of events for qualifying businesses. The exemption only applies to production facilities, not remote tasting rooms.

“The updated code provides clear rules around the size and scale of wineries, distilleries and breweries in the rural and agricultural areas of King County, including limits on parking, hours, access and other factors,” said County Councilmember Claudia Balducci in a news release.

She said the code, which was adopted in 2003, failed to regulate the growing industry in King County. The code contained many ambiguities that made it difficult for businesses to follow and the county to enforce, she added.

As a result, there has been an ongoing stream of conflict in already increasing growth rate in the city to ongoing disruptions caused by neighboring adult-beverage businesses. 

Most arguments focused on a decreased quality of life, in addition to various economic and environmental impacts brought on by the revised ordinance. Farmers shared concerns about the future of rural agriculture as the costs of farmland rise. 

A majority of testimonies questioned enforcement of the current code, saying the ordinance loosens existing rules and revisions have left the measure convoluted. One person claimed approving the legislation will set a standard that affects all future land use in King County.

Tim Trohimovitch, co-director of planning and law at Futurewise, said efforts to protect and restore habitat for Chinook salmon and resident orcas would not be possible with the proposed ordinance. He said Woodinville needs to grow up, not out.

“King County has a great record of containing urban growth within urban growth areas, protecting farmland and supporting farmers. This ordinance doesn’t do that,” Trohimovitch said. 

Dozens of testimonies referenced the importance of protecting and preserving farmlands. The fear of climate change was mentioned often, as well as the impact on endangered species. 

Attendees repeatedly told Council that approval of the ordinance is not reversible, especially once land is paved. Woodinville resident Gary Mattson said history will be lost if the ordinance is approved.

“The valley was home to wildlife of all sorts. The fields were full,” Mattson said. “If this ordinance passes, you need to all go down to the Sammamish Valley and take all the pictures you can for future generations.”

Many other long-time Woodinville residents highlighted the importance of protecting future children with “rural, bio-diverse ecosystems.” Another testimony said the expanding wine industry romanticizes alcohol for young generations.

A young mother testified about worsening sewer and traffic patterns as a result of more people coming into the city for social activities. Others warned about the area becoming a “dangerous pub crawl.”

“I don’t think the facts are convincing to a lot of people. We have heard things today that are simply not true,” Balducci said. “There is a problem in the Sammamish Valley area, and this ordinance is an attempt to address that problem.”

Councilmember Kathy Lambert said the council has taken significant steps to protect agricultural lands. She said the new code protects more land than the current code.

“There are some businesses that will have to close their doors. We are aware of that,” Lambert said. “Our job is to make hard decisions.” 


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