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Beverage ordinance would pollute King County farms, opponents say

Washington state is the No.2 producer of premium wine behind California, with 739 licensed wineries and 350 vineyards.
Matt Long
Washington state is the No.2 producer of premium wine behind California, with 739 licensed wineries and 350 vineyards.

Farmers and residents of the Sammamish Valley spoke in opposition Wednesday against a proposed King County ordinance that could allow wineries and breweries to operate closer to rural farmland.

The beverage ordinance would update development regulations for alcohol producers opperating in unincorporated King County.


But opponents of the proposed ordinance say the county hasn’t done enough to stop businesses operating as bars and tasting rooms on land designated for agricultural development. The proposal would invite more commercail development on rural land, they said in testimony to the King County Council.


Serena Glover is executive director of the Friends of Sammamish Valley, a community interest group. She said the beverage ordinance would shrink buffer zones designed to protect agricultural land from the effects of development.

"That’s intended to protect farmland from upflow residential activities," she said. "Run-off and toxins and pollutants run under the road and into the farmland and into the Sammamish Valley river watershed.”

Tasting rooms are big sources of revenue for wineries like Castillo de Feliciana in Walla Walla. Kara Castillo manages the winery’s Woodinville tasting room. She told the council her family’s business wouldn’t survive without it and urged them to pass the ordinance.

“Seventy-five percent of our revenue comes from here," she said in testimony. "Our primary clientele is in western Washington and we have to bring our harvest to market, just like all farmers do.”

Some residents called on the county to issue an environmental impact statement on the proposal, but officials have yet to do so.

King County farmer Andrew Ely opposes the ordinance because the growth of his business and his produce depends on protecting the environment, he said.

“Over years and years of stewardship, I can increase my biodiversity, I can increase my product diversity, I can increase my market because I have healthy water, healthy soil, healthy air to operate within," he said.

Several dozen people testified against the proposal. The County Council voted to refer the proposed ordinance back to committee for further consideration.