Wine, Pizza and Music, Oh My

by lewwaters

GrapesAdmittedly, not a subject I have been paying a lot of attention to, but it seems our growing wine industry in North Clark County is ruffling a few feathers and has the County Commissioners considering placing more restrictions on them to satisfy those who live around the winery’s.

I’m not known for visiting the wineries since I don’t drink, but have visited some larger wineries many years ago in the Russian River area of California and found it to be a very pleasurable experience.

But those are very large wineries, like internationally renowned Korbel. Our local wineries are much smaller and less well known but to many local residents who tell me of many pleasant visits to taste the wine offered, maybe listen to music and enjoy a pizza or some pre-packaged food since they are barred from being a restaurant by county ordinance.

Some, like the Rusty Grape Vineyard has drawn the ire of a few neighbors who complain about hearing the music and have complained for years now to the County Commission, who now is ready to place further restrictions upon the Vineyards.

That I first see the Lazy C giving the new ordinance a Cheers is enough to make me initially question this ordinance change, considering the Lazy C rarely sides with the community.

It seems the largest complaint is over noise from amplified music that has some neighbors complaining and the County Commissioners ready to silence such music from 7 PM to 7 AM, which to me seems excessive.

While allowing it to run until 10 PM currently is obviously too late, 7 PM is still afternoon during the summer months with the sun not setting until 9 PM through July, and still not setting until around 7 PM well into September.

Many people have just gotten off of work and can barely have time to make it to the Vineyard by then, only to arrive and have the reason they go shut down for the evening.

But, watching the video of the June 25, 2013 Commissioners meeting where the changes to the ordinance were being discussed irks me a bit on a more personal scale as I listen to Commissioner Tom Mielke, who I respect and consider a friend, talking about ensuring neighbors of the Vineyards expectations of peace and quiet are met.

What irks me is that last year, Commissioner Mielke expressed no similar respect of the neighborhood I live in about our expectations of peace and quiet as the narrow two-lane road adjacent to my home was being widened to accommodate heavier semi-truck traffic that now rumbles by some 20 to 25 feet from my kitchen window.

Many residents along this street objected to the use of it being made into a main arterial for large trucks due to our families and several small children living up and down the street.

In an online chat hosted by the Lazy C I asked both Commissioner Mielke and candidate Joe Tanner, “Many of my neighbors are concerned with increased semi-truck traffic. What can be done to reduce semi’s going down such a residential street?”

Commissioner Mielke replied, “[The] street is an arterial, soon to be 4 lanes with a bicycle lane and sidewalks. I would expect that we will have some truck traffic.”

I have to wonder why there is no expectation of some level of noise out past Battle Ground and those people are entitled to more peace and quiet than my neighborhood is?

Beyond the noise is also a restriction being placed on food service to prevent any of the vineyards from becoming a restaurant. None are to have on sight cook to order food service or inside seated areas for food that is meant to prevent eateries or taverns from opening up in North Clark County.

How ironic it would be if the neighbors complaining about the wineries were also prevented from holding parties and outside Barbecues on their property due to the same ordinance, but I also feel they would have no problem hosting such events for friends and others on their own property as late as they wish.

Watching the video of the June 25 commissioners meeting, I noticed that only two Vineyard owners spoke, both of whom seemed willing to bend over backwards and have been doing what they can to keep their winery functioning as well as appease neighbors.

Some of those neighbors seem to want no part of it and even though they say stopping the amplified music is the goal, I suspect that they will just find another reason to keep complaining, one neighbor already indicating the planting of trees or shrubbery to block noise spoiling his view and being out of the question as far as he is concerned.

I also find it odd how we were constantly being told we had to accept change and progress in accepting the now defunct CRC light rail project, but this same handful of people living in North County somehow don’t have to accept change and progress in their neighborhood.

I also find it peculiar that these same County Commissioners have no problem imposing much louder noises every year in a different area of North County around the Fairgrounds on those who live on property there during the annual Clark County Fair which operates well past the now proposed 7 PM time frame.

The Rusty Grape put out a notice on their facebook page this weekend;

As many of you know we are dealing with what might be a significant change to our business. The county is wanting to change the winery ordinance in a way that would make it impossible for us to make pizza and put a serious damper on the music. If you don’t agree with this tell them. You can email them here: mail to: boardcom@clark.wa.gov

There is also going to be a meeting on Tuesday at the county building, 1300 Franklin St. in downtown Vancouver. The website says it will take place at 6PM. We will post more details as we know them. The more who show up the better!

It is up to you if you’re a patron and wish to continue enjoying your time up there. Your silence will only let the County Commissioners believe you agree with the changes to the ordinance.

5 Comments to “Wine, Pizza and Music, Oh My”

  1. I have enjoyed winery tours all over the country. The Russian Valley Vineyards are indeed excellent and still my favorite. The Chateau St Michele up north has regular summer wine and dinner events and posts of their summer concerts on the lawn ar sent to me weekly. These events are ways to attract business to the wineries which in turn feed the state coffers by putting tax dollars into the piggy banks in Olympia and in their own county. It also does one more thing… gets people out into their surroundings and enjoying nature and neighbors within their county. I think that the idea of shutting down options for revenue streams and oh say, a wedding event or a charity event is truly not okay.

  2. I would be all for the wineries if I did not stumble across some information that I find interesting. 1.) The Rusty Grape and about nine other Clark County wineries do not have a winery license to even operate as a winery. 2.) The Rusty Grapes’ buildings are agricultural buildings that have not been permitted for the use as a restaurant or to hold events. So unlike all the other restaurants in Clark County that had to go through the building permit process, the Rusty Grape did not. 3.) The Rusty Grape is not permitted to have uncooked meat on their premise but they do, which is against county health codes. 4.) The Rusty Grape received a letter from the county in 2010 to close all operations until they can get the proper permits but the Rusty Grape ignored the letter and the county did not enforce the letter. Basically, the Rusty Grape is operating illegally. I’m certain all the restaurant/pub businesses in Vancouver and Battle Ground would have loved to know that they could have bypassed the entire permit process if they just moved out of the city and into the county. 5.) The Rusty Grape serves beer making it a pub. The property is also zoned as a residential area. So now the county is allowing pubs in residentially zoned areas. 6.) Prior to the new ordinance the county illegally exempted the wineries from Washington State’s noise ordinances; hence the neighbor’s complaint. 7.) The vast majority of the Clark County wineries do not meet the state’s RCW’s. I believe a winery must have 5 acres of vineyards on property. The Rusty Grape has maybe 1 acre while other wineries have none.

    You write, “How ironic it would be if the neighbors complaining about the wineries were also prevented from holding parties and outside Barbecues on their property due to the same ordinance, but I also feel they would have no problem hosting such events for friends and others on their own property as late as they wish.” Interesting observation even if short sighted and ignorant. You are making the assumption that all Clark County residences who hold parties would be considered a business, charge a fee for food and drink, and are not held to the very same noise ordinance as the wineries.

    I think the next time you write your opinion you should do a little investigation first. Now when you are at the Rusty Grape eating dinner you can think about how the building you are sitting in was not inspected or permitted to house people. Or that the steak you are eating was not checked by the county to see if it is properly stored/cooked/served. And if a pub opens up next to you in your residentially zoned property you can thank the Commissioner’s because they already set the precedence with the Rusty Grape.

    Outside that I am for the wineries and the income they generate for the county. I just wish they were made to follow the rules like other businesses in the county.

  3. The Rusty Grape has been shutdown. It was not operating according to its agriculture zoning at all and was indeed in violation by operating a restaurant and serving beer. There are options for ways around some of this such as cater it in for a wedding event or such. They simply wanted to do whatever they wanted with their property. I believe in private property rights and small business but this one case was pushing the legal limits considering that the democrats have gone so far out of their way to create regulations which block our open freedoms.

  4. Thomas, perhaps it just your own “ignorance” that misses the post is about over regulation and meeting a happy medium.

    That Rusty Grape violates that happy medium is an entirely different subject.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Thank you Lew, For bringing up some key points about regulation. As for the other comments. As in life I found people operate on very little truth. While feathers may been ruffled Rusty Grape Vineyard as spent tens of thousands of dollars to meet County Code and engineered our buildings. We continue to have a fruitful working relationship with the County and Commissioners to help cultivate a compliant local wine industry. Cheers!

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