Wine, distillery, and brewery businesses are growing so fast in King County, the local government is having a hard time keeping up. The county says there have been complaints about noise, and concerns about protecting the environment. There is an effort to provide oversight, and to address businesses that have been allowed to operate illegally in unincorporated areas of the county.
On Tuesday, King County Council's Planning, Rural Service and Environment Committee considered an ordinance that would amend the county zoning code.
"Wine, beer, tasting rooms, essentially bars on the 202 are urban uses that don't belong on APD Farmland and in the rural area. There's plenty of land in the urban area for these businesses to move and thrive," said Linda Pichard of Woodinville.
At Lumber House Brewery, Melissa Earl has her own perspective on what has become a passionate debate.
"It started with a letter saying that we were in violation, and we were shocked because we had Washington state approval and we had federal government approval," she said.
Melissa and her husband say they had made it through a rigorous licensing process, only to hit a wall with King County. They were told they could no longer have a tasting room where they brew beer which is at their home in Hobart. It sits on seven acres surrounded by forest.
"The only option we had was to take everything that we just finished building in Hobart and move it to the big city," she said. "Taking on two overheads at such a young state is a lot to ask a small business."
She opened a location in Black Diamond in July. She says she has to stay open seven days a week to make rent.
Dominique Torgerson and her brother, Dane Scarimbolo have faced their own battle in southeast Kent. That is where they operate Four Horsemen Brewery out of the family home.
"People loved it. The community loved it," said Scarimbolo.
"We've basically been closed down for close to a year because of this whole issue essentially with the department of permitting," said Torgerson.
There is a proposal to modernize regulations to support wineries and breweries, and at the same time protect the environment and rural communities in King County.
Melissa says it has been a fast-growing industry that needs thoughtful consideration.
"I do think that this code needs to be considerate of all of the business types that did function legally under the home occupation code as it sits on the record currently," said Earl. "I say we can all survive in this if we just step back from this a little bit and look at the whole."
At Four Horsemen Brewery, they say they took their case to the hearing examiner who ruled in their favor, but the issue is still complicated. And for Dane and Dominique, it has been costly.
The planning committee did not make any decision on Tuesday. They noted it was their fourth meeting on the issue.