The Metropolitan King County Council on Tuesday said more work is needed on a proposed ordinance related to wineries, distilleries and breweries that operate in unincorporated areas of the county.
The ordinance, which affects a total of 41 businesses in the Sammamish and Snoqualmie valleys and the Enumclaw area, was scheduled for a vote but instead was sent back to the council’s Local Services and Land Use Committee. Councilmember Sarah Perry, the ordinance’s sponsor, requested the referral.
Perry said that in dozens of conversations, it became clear the ordinance’s complications “require deeper conversations and considerations.”
The ordinance was intended to comply with an order from the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB), which earlier this year invalidated an ordinance that was passed in 2019. The deadline to comply is Friday, and Perry said previously that not doing so could put the county at risk of sanctions from state agencies and make it ineligible for certain types of loans or state grants. Council members didn’t disclose what, if any, impact there could be from not voting on the ordinance.
King County has appealed the GMHB’s ruling in King County Superior Court.
Perry said that she didn’t want to rush the process for an issue that dates back years. A legal and political battle has swirled throughout the county, but especially in Woodinville, which receives hundreds of thousands of visitors at its approximately 130 wineries, microbreweries and cideries in the area.
Under the proposed ordinance, the businesses operating outside city limits would need to have multiple stages of production on-site, among other changes associated with sales and daily operations, like limits on the size of a parking area or how many events are allowed each month.
The ordinance faced criticism from both supporters of the wineries, breweries and distilleries and opponents like the group Friends of Sammamish Valley, which challenged the earlier ordinance to the GMHB, alleging it didn’t comply with the Growth Management Act. Supporters said the requirements were too restrictive and may lead to some businesses having to shut down, while opponents don’t want the businesses to exist at all.
At Tuesday’s meeting, one supporter of the businesses asked councilmembers to “let this proposal wither on the vine.”
Matthews Winery owner Diane Otis brought copies of several state and federal licenses and permits for the tasting room and farm, located just outside Woodinville. She noted the business, which sits on eight acres, has operated for 20 years and has overwhelming support from the community and neighbors.
Meanwhile, Friends of Sammamish Valley founder Serena Glover said her group remains against the ordinance.
“The environmental community, farm businesses, and rural advocacy organizations are strongly united in opposition to the ordinance,” Glover said in an email.