Winery rules under scrutiny

As county considers revisions, neighbor of B.G.-area business voices noise complaint

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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photoHomeowner Steve Syverson lives on two and a half acres in Battle Ground. Syverson is unhappy about loud noise from events at the Rusty Grape Vineyard located near his property.

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Steve Syverson wasn't thrilled to have a winery open up shop on land just downhill from his Battle Ground home a few years back.

He says he's supportive of the county welcoming such businesses in general, but he's grown weary of having the Rusty Grape Vineyard operate just a few hundred feet from his living room.

"I'm all for the wineries. I wish them well," Syverson said. "That being said, it's not always a good fit."

He's had a few problems with folks parking on the shoulder of his adjacent fields, which he leases for his horses. And the lights from cars shine through his windows when cars drive up the entrance to the winery.

But that, Syverson says, he could live with. It's the sound from outdoor events that have caused conflict with his neighbors.

"It's really just the noise," Syverson said of his issues with the winery. "We wanted to be away from the city, away from the noise. We're not."

Syverson attended a Clark County commissioners workshop meeting last week, where he was able to share his concerns as the county looks at revising its rules for county wineries.

In Clark County, agricultural use is allowed in all zones. But the question before commissioners is what happens when a winery goes from growing grapes and fermenting wines to hosting events?

Jeremy Brown, the owner of the Rusty Grape Vineyard, didn't attend the workshop. Brown is out of the country for a few weeks, according to his father-in-law Robbin Hall, who is minding the vineyard while he's gone.

The events, Hall says, are important as they help make the winery viable.

"It's to make a living," Hall said. "It's done to employ people, and to grow the community."

Hall says the winery hosts about two outdoor events each month when the weather allows. Many of those have amplified music playing. But Hall says the winery has never been fined for violating noise complaints.

He said the vineyard is waiting on the county to draft final rules for wineries, but they are also discussing ways to fix the noise issue in the interim.

"What we will have to do is probably run a higher fence and plant trees all the way around," Hall said. "We don't want to have upset neighbors."

The relationship between wineries and their neighbors is likely to become more of a talking point in coming years as the county expects growth in the industry. There are currently eight wineries on file with the county.

At last week's workshop session, commissioners agreed they need to set rules for wineries hosting events. But Commissioner Steve Stuart boiled that point down even further.

"This is not about events," Stuart said. "It's about noise and traffic."

The workshop only scratched the surface of the discussion as a whole. Food service issues must also be taken up before policy direction is given to staff to draft.

An additional workshop to continue the discussion on wineries is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 20. From there, a public hearing must be held on the matter.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov ; erik.hidle@columbian.com.