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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Clark County Council forming task force to review code that only allows wineries to host rural events

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: December 13, 2023, 3:01pm

Clark County has begun recruiting members for a newly formed task force that will look at whether the county’s existing code for commercial events — weddings, birthday and graduation parties, receptions and other small gatherings — in rural areas should be changed.

The task force was the result of the county council’s August work session on the issue. According to a staff report presented at the work session, current code only allows event businesses to operate as an accessory to a winery. Commercial events are not allowed on lands designated as open space or commercial forest.

County code also specifies that no more than 50 vehicles are allowed for guests, and all parking must be on the property. A maximum of 18 single events per year, each up to one day in length, are allowed.

Small-farm owners argue wineries shouldn’t be the only businesses allowed to hold weddings and parties on their properties. In a recent letter to The Columbian, La Center farm owner Mark Lopez said the county code unfairly hampers small farm sustainability.

“Farm weddings are more than events; they’re a celebration of agricultural heritage and a form of agritourism aligning with county farmstand rules,” Lopez wrote.

What do the wineries think about the proposed change?

“I was not aware of it,” said Donna R. Rezabek, co-owner of Rezabek Vineyards in Battle Ground, adding she would be looking into it.

Not everyone supports allowing rural events. Between 2018 and June 2023, the county received 15 code complaints about events on rural properties. Of those, two were found to have no violations, four could not be verified, two property owners filed the required applications, one had an application pending and six voluntarily discontinued their events.

The task force will have 12 members, with three farm owners, three winery owners and three residents not affiliated with farms or wineries living or operating on land zoned as R-5, R-10 or R-20. The remaining three positions are for residents who participate in a formal organization or board that represents the residents or businesses of Clark County. Community Development Director April Furth will lead the task force.

For more information or to apply, go to https://clark.wa.gov/community-development/county-seeks-applicants-rural-event-center/agri-tourism-task-force.