How We Got Here
As the wine industry started to flourish in the Woodinville area, a very small number of individuals decided to open remote tasting rooms and event centers (essentially bars) on rural RA lands that buffer the APD. Some of these previously operated as production wineries but decided to move their wine production out of the Sammamish Valley and turn their Valley facilities into event centers. Citizens and legally operating businesses submitted numerous zoning violation complaints to King County, but these businesses continued to operate despite numerous citations from the county.
In some cases violators ratcheted up their code violating activities (bigger events, parking cars on productive agricultural land, excessive noise and traffic, illegal construction, etc), inciting more feedback to the county. These businesses have been allowed to illegally operate remote tasting rooms and event centers on rural land without consideration for the impact on the adjacent agricultural land, the Valley residents who chose a rural lifestyle, or the huge percentage of local businesses who play by the rules.
Instead of focusing on code enforcement, King County conducted the Sammamish Valley Wine and Beverage Study with the stated goal of developing recommendations supporting the wine and beverage industry; improving the interface between these businesses and surrounding communities; protecting the farmland and rural area; and honoring the requirements of the Growth Management Act (GMA).
The resulting proposed legislation from the study is Ordinance #2018-0241, Responding to the King County Sammamish Valley Wine and Beverage Study. Supporters of the proposed ordinance argue it was produced as a result of this study. However, the ordinance not only fails to meet the stated goals of the study, it actually goes against these goals by being in direct violation of the GMA and causing harm to the farmland and the rural area. The “Demonstration” Project Overlays in the ordinance are in fact permanent and are essentially a backdoor way to bring urban activities onto rural lands without following mandated GMA update process.
During the study and now while moving the Ordinance through the legislative process, code enforcement has been suspended for the violators, pending the outcome of the Ordinance.
The Ordinance is supported by a handful of code violators and land use developers/speculators and is being sponsored by Kathy Lambert, King County Councilmember for District 3, which includes the east side of Redmond-Woodinville Road in the Sammamish Valley.
What's Happening Now
The Ordinance is currently being considered by the King County Council Planning, Rural Service and Environment (PRE) Committee, chaired by Councilmember Lambert. A committee vote is expected this fall, then it will proceed to a full council vote.
In response to this threat, Friends of Sammamish Valley has proposed to King County an amendment that would modify the Ordinance by:
- Removing the “Demonstration” Project Overlays from the Sammamish Valley as these overlays threaten rural and agricultural areas by permanently allowing urban-oriented commercial and retail businesses such as bars and event centers to operate in these protected areas.
- Closing loopholes in the ordinance that would allow drinking establishments and event centers to function as wineries even when little or no product is produced on-site.
- Providing a 12-month grace period to enable the illegally operating tasting rooms, retail sales outlets, and event centers to move to a new legal location. The City of Woodinville has identified a significant amount of nearby space that is immediately available with the proper zoning and infrastructure for these businesses.
You can make your voice heard and join our effort to protect the Sammamish Valley farmland and preserve the rural nature of the valley for the benefit of residents, nearby urban dwellers, legally operating businesses, and the wine tourism industry.