King County has filed an appeal against the Growth Management Hearings Board’s decision to invalidate the Adult Beverage Ordinance, continuing an age-old battle between the county and community members seeking to preserve the Sammamish Valley farmland.
“We are severely disappointed that the county has decided to pursue this special interest legislation with an appeal,” said Serena Glover, executive director of Friends of Sammamish Valley. “It is against the will of the people and a complete waste of taxpayer dollars when there are many other higher priorities for public spending.”
The county council declared a six-month moratorium Tuesday, June 23, prohibiting the establishment or expansion of wineries, breweries, distilleries and remote tasting rooms until the county has clear regulations to enforce.
Councilmember Rod Dembrowski submitted the walk-on legislation at the Tuesday council meeting, resulting in a 9-0 unanimous vote. Councilmembers Claudia Balducci and Kathy Lambert, long-time supporters of the Adult Beverage Ordinance, also jumped on board as co-sponsors of the moratorium during the meeting.
“We’re not adjusting the ordinance, but right now it’s a little bit of a Wild West situation given the status of the law here in this moratorium,” Dembrowski said.
Dembrowski said this legislation aims to pause licensing and permitting activities for wineries, breweries and distilleries in unincorporated King County until the ordinance is sorted out. The moratorium was established to provide clarity for residents, business owners and code enforcement staff while clear regulations are determined. The measure also prohibits temporary use permits for adult beverage establishments under the King County Code.
The widely contested Adult Beverage Ordinance was found in violation on a dozen grounds related to the Growth Management Act and the State Emergency Management Act. The ordinance was unanimously invalidated by the state’s Growth Management Hearings Board at the end of May.
The board remanded the ordinance back to the county for a proper environmental study, which was never completed in the first place. The council also passed a motion directing the executive branch to evaluate the necessary steps to comply with the GMHB’s order regarding the ordinance. Once the county completes this assessment, the board will then determine if the environmental impacts were adequately addressed.
“The GMHB’s decision has left the code in a place where it is really unclear what the rules may be for somebody applying,” Balducci said during the virtual council meeting.
Jim Chan, division director for permitting in King County, aims to work with existing adult beverage businesses on a case-by-case basis. He said existing business that are not compliant with the old code, or now the invalidated new code, are going to be on hold pending the outcome of the actions taken within the next six months.
Glover said FoSV is hoping to raise $40,000 by July 17 to cover legal fees for the appeal work to ensure the invalidation of the ordinance. She said the county should be “allocating scarce resources” to critical issues, such as the pandemic, social unrest, homelessness and transportation infrastructure.
“We wonder why they are appealing the order, when at the same time they are spending yet more money in an to attempt to come into compliance with the order,” Glover said. “They need to let this ordinance go and move on.”