Winery events seen as positive

Although public hearings on the issue have often been contentious on both sides, a small survey conducted by Island County found most neighbors feel rural wineries and farms holding events next to them have either no impact or a positive one to their property.

As part of an update to rural event regulations, county staff sent out a survey to 89 people who live within 300 feet of businesses with a temporary event permit. Results were presented to the Island County Planning Commission Monday. Of the 42 that responded, 33 percent said the wineries or farms had a positive impact on their property and 28 percent had little to no impact.

These temporary event permit holders are allowed to hold 10 events per year with up to 150 people in attendance. County planning staff are in the process of updating code for events in rural-zoned areas. There have been some vocal opponents to any events taking place in rural-zoned areas, largely made by neighbors to existing wineries.

In the survey, 18 percent of respondents said the neighboring event holder had a negative impact on their property. Most took issue with the noise, especially amplified music, and traffic that come with events. An analysis of where the respondents lived and their survey responses found those that lived closest and had the least amount of screening were the most likely to report negative impacts, according to planning staff.

Assistant Planning Director Beverly Mesa-Zendt told the planning commission that as she writes the code she will recommend increased sound mitigation, which includes fences or walls and vegetation, where event holders are in closer proximity to their neighbors. Mitigation efforts would be determined on a case-by-case basis, she said.

The proposed regulations would continue to allow wineries or other rural event holders to host 10 events per year of between 50 and 150 people. Events with fewer than 50 people that are held inside without music loud enough to be heard by neighbors would be exempt and not count toward the 10 per year.

The draft code language for rural events has not been written yet and will be addressed more thoroughly after code related to wineries, cideries and distilleries in rural areas is adopted, which is planned for mid-August.

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