Winery Appeal Is about Fairness

Article excerpt

Byline: Robert Emmons For The Register-Guard

The Goal One Coalition appealed Lane County's retroactive approval of a restaurant at King Estate as a matter of fairness, equity and justice.

With the support of Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Department of Land Conservation and Development and wineries across the state, the purpose of the appeal is to instigate a re-crafting of rules that have both the flexibility and consistency to work sensibly and fairly everywhere, and not for any single winery or dude ranch or U-pick fruit farm. For this is not just a Willamette Valley or winery issue.

Since 1989 - two years before King Estate was established - wineries that produce 100,000 gallons or less annually require county review and an opportunity for a public hearing. Production exceeding 100,000 gallons per year is no longer considered a "winery" under the relevant statute, but "a commercial activity in conjunction with farm use" and requires a conditional use permit. Events venues, such as weddings and conventions, need a special use permit.

Notwithstanding these provisions of the law, since its inception King Estate has operated without a land use review of its winery; without the conditional use permit required when, many years ago, it exceeded 100,000 gallons per year in production; and without special use permits for its full-service restaurant and special events venues - all, therefore, in violation of state statutes and mandated county regulation.

While King Estate has received a free ride for the last 20 years, Lane County has collected no land use fees from King Estate owner Ed King, one of the wealthiest landowners and developers in the county. Perhaps the county's Land Management Division believes that it gets enough from King in application and building fees for the two dozen dwellings the division approved on forestland he owns or owned in various locations in Lane County. Forgoing thousands of dollars in permit fees, the Land Management Division nonetheless routinely blames lack of funding for its inability to take on critical long-range planning projects.

King, it appears, is more equal than others. Or should one conclude that if King can disregard the law with the county's blessing, so can everyone else?

Goal One appealed the six-year tardy application and approval of a permit for a full-service restaurant at King Estate because it violated the state statute that allows only a limited service restaurant. Why is this an important condition for "a commercial activity in conjunction with farm use" such as King Estate? The experience and observations of Steve Girard, former California vintner and now co-owner of Benton-Lane Winery and vice president of the Southern Willamette Wineries Association ("A taste of trouble," Register-Guard, Feb. …