Alcohol farm

King County Council delays vote on liquor businesses operating outside city limits

Metropolitan King County Council said Tuesday that more work is needed on a draft ordinance relating 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 due for a vote but was referred to the council’s local services and land use committee. Council member Sarah Perry, the godmother of Ordinance, requested the dismissal.

Perry said in dozens of conversations, it became clear that the complications of the order “require deeper conversations and considerations.”

The order was to comply with an order from the Growth Management Hearing Board (GMHB), which earlier this year overturned an order passed in 2019. The deadline for compliance is Friday, and Perry said previously that failure to do so could put the county at risk of penalties from state agencies and render it ineligible for certain types of state loans or grants. Council members did not disclose what impact, if any, there might be of not voting on the ordinance.

King County appealed GMHB’s decision to King County Superior Court.

Perry said she doesn’t want to rush the process over 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 to its more than 130 wineries, microbreweries and cider houses in the region.

Under the proposed order, businesses operating outside of city limits would have to have multiple stages of production on-site, among other changes associated with sales and day-to-day operations like limits on the size of a parking lot or the number of events authorized each month.

The ordinance has been criticized both by supporters of wineries, breweries and distilleries and by opponents like the group Friends of Sammamish Valley, which challenged the pre-GMHB ordinance, alleging it was not not compliant with the Growth Management Act. Proponents said the requirements were too restrictive and could lead to some businesses closing, while opponents don’t want the businesses to exist at all.

At Tuesday’s meeting, a supporter of the companies asked council members to “let this proposal wilt 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 of Woodinville. She noted that the 8-acre business has been in operation for 20 years and has overwhelming support from the community and neighbors.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Sammamish Valley founder Serena Glover said her group remains against the order.

“The environmental community, agricultural businesses and rural rights organizations are strongly united against the ordinance,” Glover said in an email.