The Sammamish Valley was the focal point for a series of proposed regulatory changes to alcohol production facilities and tasting rooms across King County. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

The Sammamish Valley was the focal point for a series of proposed regulatory changes to alcohol production facilities and tasting rooms across King County. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Tasting room proposal could redefine alcohol production in King County

Pilot program would benefit wineries, breweries and distilleries. Several farmers are concerned.

A King County ordinance that would create a pilot program to allow alcohol tasting rooms and production in unincorporated areas was sent back to committee after a lengthy public hearing.

The ordinance in question would allow tasting rooms for wineries, breweries and distilleries to operate in three areas of the county at first, but if successful, the program could set precedent for code across King County. In particular, the ordinance is dealing with several tasting rooms that have set up in recent years just outside of the Woodinville tourism district. While the tourism district is zoned to support tasting rooms, under current county code, several of the tasting rooms in unincorporated King County are not allowed.

The public hearing packed the council chambers and led to more than a three-hour meeting as supporters and detractors of the ordinance voiced their concerns. The sides roughly broke down to winery, brewery and distillery owners who hoped the ordinance passed — and neighbors and farmers who were worried it could open the door for development and contamination for farmland across the county.

A representative of the Castillo De Feliciana winery asked the council to pass the ordinance, allow parking to be accommodated at current levels, and extend their hours of operation past a 7 p.m. cutoff on weekdays. Several other business owners expressed frustration and concern that while they were trying to come into compliance with interim permitting rules, it seemed that King County staff was constantly changing their regulations.

Several farmers also showed up to voice concerns that allowing these pilot programs to continue could eventually open the door for land speculators to purchase normally cheap farmland, therefore driving up the cost of land and pricing small farmers out of the market.

The council ultimately decided to send the ordinance to the Committee of the Whole for further discussion at a date yet to be decided.

“We will make sure the public knows what the schedule is,” said council chairman Rod Dembowski.

The ordinance was created to try and balance the desires of winery tasting rooms — which set up in the Sammamish Valley in recent years out of compliance with city code — and neighbors and farmers who view this as a threat to the semi-rural and agricultural nature of the valley.

Neighbors of the wineries and tasting rooms in recent years began filing code enforcement complaints against the facilities operating without permits. Some said at the public hearing that noise from events at these facilities were affecting their quality of life while others worried about an increase in traffic.

Under the proposed ordinance, alcohol production and tasting rooms would be broken into three categories, roughly by their size. The first and smallest would be for production facilities of no more than 1,500 square feet that would not be allowed to have onsite tasting, events or sales. It would allow small commercial production to replace home businesses.

The next level would allow up to 3,500 square feet of space for properties of at least 2.5 acres of land. Product tasting and sales would be allowed and events could be held with temporary-use permits.

The largest category would allow for up to 8,000 square feet of facility on properties of at least 10 acres in size. Product tasting and sales would be allowed and events would need special permits. In the valley, only two wineries have enough land to qualify for this. The largest two classes of wineries would also be required to grow at least 60 percent of their grapes on site.

If the pilot program is successful, these rules could change alcohol production across the whole county. Two pilot zones would also be created in the Sammamish Valley that would allow most of the current wineries and tasting rooms on rural-zoned land to remain at least through the duration of the three-year pilot program.

Most of these businesses are located on rural land on the eastern side of the Sammamish Valley. However, at the center is the Sammamish Valley Agriculture Production District, farmland the county is preserving for farmland. In total, the district is 1,082 acres and produces food, sod, trees and hosts around 500 acres for equestrian uses.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Alvin Sweet is a resident of Martin Court in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. Martin Court is a former motel which was transformed into a supportive housing complex two decades ago. New funding from King County’s Health through Housing ordinance could expand this type of program across the county.
King County wants to buy motels for emergency, affordable housing

The concept has proven results in addressing homelessness.

Courtesy photo
State demanded more drop boxes, and now it must pay for them

A King County judge says a law requiring more ballot boxes was an illegal unfunded mandate.

King County 2020 unemployment numbers. Source: Washington State Employment Security Department
Boeing, coronavirus likely to impact King County economy

Unemployment remained high in September.

Screenshot from the state Employment Security Department’s website at esd.wa.gov.
State still sifting through thousands of unemployment claims

The recent Lost Wages Assistance program pumped an extra $625 million to Washington’s unemployed.

power grid electricity power lines blackouts PG&E (Shutterstock)
State extends moratorium on some electric, gas shutoffs

Investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in WA can’t disconnect customers through April.

Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee (left) and Republican challenger Loren Culp during Wednesday's debate. (TVW) 20201007
Inslee, Culp joust on COVID, climate, crime in feisty debate

In their only televised match-up, the two gubernatorial candidates differed on pretty much everything.

Gov. Jay Inslee during his Oct. 6 news conference. (Screenshot)
Gov. Inslee loosens rules for bars, libraries and movie theaters

New rules come as coronavirus cases are on the rise statewide.

Jay Inslee (left) and Loren Culp
Inslee, Culp will meet in only televised debate Wednesday

The two candidates will answer questions for an hour but they will not be on stage together.

Cecil Lacy Jr. (Family photo)
Court: New trial in case of man who told police ‘Can’t breathe’

Cecil Lacy Jr. of Tulalip died in 2015 while in police custody.

A Sept. 10 satellite image shows smoke from U.S. wildfires blanketing the majority of the West Coast. (European Space Agency)
University of Washington professors talk climate change, U.S.-China relations

Downside for climate policy supporters is it can risk alienating moderate or right-leaning voters.

Sightseers at a Snoqualmie Falls viewpoint adjacent to the Salish Lodge & Spa on Feb. 19, 2020. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
25 COVID cases linked to Salish Lodge

Public Health is urging anyone who visited the lodge to monitor for symptoms or get tested.

The nose of the 500th 787 Dreamliner at the assembly plant in Everett on Sept. 21, 2016. (Kevin Clark / Herald, file)
Report: Boeing will end 787 Dreamliner production in Everett

Boeing declined comment on a Wall Street Journal story saying the passenger jet’s assembly will move to South Carolina.