Diversification, Not Sprawl

Article excerpt

Byline: The Register-Guard

A primary aim of Oregon's land-use planning system is to preserve farm lands. That goal can be achieved only if farmers are able to make a living. Yet land-use regulations restricting subsidiary ventures such as restaurants at wineries prevent farmers from supplementing their incomes in ways that allow them to avoid having to sell out or subdivide. The rules treat farms as scenery, not as economic enterprises. Maybe the next step will be rules requiring farmers to stand picturesquely in their fields, wearing bib overalls.

The problem is that land-use rules and laws haven't kept up with the latest turns in the evolution of Oregon's agricultural economy. Many farmers have found they can earn extra money by catering to the public with roadside produce stands, Halloween corn mazes, winery restaurants and other commercial ventures. The challenge for the Legislature will be to draw a line between a cut-flower vending operation and a strip mall.

The inadequacy of current rules came into clear view at King Estate winery near Lorane. In a Feb. 13 article, Register-Guard reporter Sherri Buri McDonald described how owner Ed King obtained a permit to operate a restaurant in conjunction with his winery, but only after considerable difficulty and expense. Lane County's approval of the permit has been appealed by the Goal One Coalition, a land-use watchdog group. The name refers to the No. 1 goal of Oregon's land-use planning system, which is public involvement.

As part of a tasting room expansion in 2005, King opened a 200-seat full-service restaurant. It serves locally produced foods to complement the products of one of the state's biggest wineries. In 2008, Lane County informed King Estate that it needed to obtain a permit for the restaurant and events at the winery. Similar notices went out to other Lane County wineries that offered their scenic settings as venues for weddings, concerts and other events. …