Clark County Winery Ordinance

July 28, 2010

In the United States, to produce cider commercially, one must have a winery license. In my home county, the wine industry is barely beginning to grow, and county officials wanted to know, as published in The Columbian, “Was this a commercial use of agriculture land? Retail? Is food being served? Does the health department know about this tasting room? What about the fire marshal? How many customers are going to come, and are neighbors going to be calling the county to complain about noise and traffic?”

Part of the reason this created some conflicts was that Washington State Liquor Control Board will not issue a liquor license until a winery proves that it is in compliance with local land-use laws, and the local officials were not exactly sure how to deal with wineries, and so a new business that could draw in money to the local economy would be vastly delayed in opening.

So local officials and wineries came together and had the Board of County Commissioners approve an interim wineries ordinance, which will probably be made permanent by November 30, 2010. The Clark County news release says,

The ordinance was drawn up in consultation with winery owners after some were delayed in receiving their Washington State Liquor Control Board licenses because they could not demonstrate compliance with local land use laws regarding wineries.

Clark County did not have regulations governing wineries, which have increased in number only in the last couple of years, and so winery applicants either encountered a confusing permit process or filed nothing with the county.

To better support fledgling ventures and ensure that wineries and tasting rooms comply with fire, building and land use laws, county staff developed codes specifically applicable to small scale wineries in Clark County. These codes clarify and simplify the development process and establish permit fees for wineries, distinguishing them from large-scale development projects.

The interim ordinance also designates acceptable functions at wineries in order to protect neighbors. It sets out regulations regarding access, parking and use. For example, a winery can host a maximum of 24 events annually and events must be completed no later than one hour after sunset. Food can be available on a limited basis, but charging admission for the primary purpose of listening to live music is prohibited.

As approved, the interim ordinance requires compliance with applicable building codes, which will help ensure the safety of those who work in or visit wineries and tasting rooms. Agricultural buildings, including older ones, have been converted to winery use, and a permit assures an annual inspection to be sure the structure is safe.

Video: CVTV news clip (requires Windows Media Player)

I’m glad this is in place, as it will help me open up my cider house some day.

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