Washington Co. winery regulations halted until spring

The delay will allow time for county planners and winery interests to resolve a conflict over potential county regulatory authority

In this Jan. 25, 2014 photo, a man pours a glass of wine. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — New regulations affecting some activities at Washington County’s wineries have been put on hold until spring planting.

The regulations, which largely carry out provisions of a 2013 state law clarifying winery activities, were carried over by county commissioners to March 7.

The delay will allow time for county planners and winery interests to resolve a conflict over potential county regulatory authority.

“There is no pressing need to adopt this by next month,” Chairman Andy Duyck said at the board meeting Tuesday (Oct. 25). “That gives us time to work with you and hope we can come up with something later.”

The longer delay is prompted by deadlines in the county charter, which bars adoption of land use ordinances between Nov. 1 and the last day of February. The pending ordinance would have died unless the board set a specific date for continuation.

There are more than 30 wineries in the Tualatin Valley.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.

The delay was recommended by the county planning staff and agreed to by John Platt, proprietor of Helvetia Winery and a former president of the Washington County Winery Association.

The dispute is over whether the county can regulate hours of events and number of attendees as conditional uses for tasting rooms, as it can under the law for agritourism and other commercial events at wineries. Winery interests argue that under state law, they are outright permitted uses.

Associate Planner Anne Kelly said the ordinance is the result of a county work plan to implement a 2013 law.

Most provisions are not controversial and are intended to carry out the law, which gives wineries wide latitude to hold events if they are related to sales or promotions of wine.

Under the law, Willamette Valley wineries — except those designated as large wineries that produce more than 150,000 gallons annually — may schedule up to six days of other types of events not focused on wine under five-year renewable licenses from counties or cities. Events in this category are not considered “land use actions” subject to the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

These smaller wineries may hold between 7 and 18 days of other types of events under five-year permits, which counties or cities can attach conditions to.

Under the proposed ordinance, these wineries can provide only for temporary kitchen facilities.

Large wineries are subject to different regulations under a 2011 law allowing up to 25 days of events.

The 2013 law originally was introduced to allow wineries on farm-forest land. Washington County’s proposed ordinance would affect wineries on land zoned for exclusive farm use and agriculture-forest land.

Leigh Bartholomew, then-president of the Oregon Winegrowers Association, described Senate Bill 841 as a negotiated compromise among winery interests and others.

“We believe this legislation gives certainty to wineries that wish to do commercial events on farmland, but at the same time emphasizes the primary purpose of winery activities is winemaking,” he testified at a legislative committee hearing.

“We don’t support event centers at wineries on farmland and this legislation ensures special events stay special to winemaking.”

But Deborah Lockwood, who runs a dairy farm, alpaca farm and horse-training facility near Hillsboro, unsuccessfully urged lawmakers to limit licenses and permits to three years instead of the five in the bill.

“The Legislature would be granting significant privileges to wine producers with this bill,” she said.