Parking for a big party at Matthews Winery in the Sammamish Valley was across the street on protected farmland. Opponents of expanded commercial activities in valley argue that the incident highlights what will happen if the county relaxes restrictions outside of Woodinville.
A recent “White Party” at Matthews Winery in the Sammamish Valley outside of Woodinville attracted about 1,500 millennials dressed in summer whites to enjoy live music, wine and a warm evening under the stars. Cars backed up in both directions. Off-duty sheriff’s deputies directed traffic, but at one point had to close down the road because of an altercation with drunken partygoers.
To neighbors who have long complained about the proliferation of illegal wineries and tasting rooms in an area of the county zoned rural, the biggest offense of the night was parking 500 to 600 cars across the street on farmland that is part of the protected Sammamish Valley Agricultural Production District.
“It’s an outrageous escalation of the already lengthy list of violations,” said Michael Tanksley, president of the Hollywood Hills Association. He said that a handful of wineries and tasting rooms continue to increase their commercial activities without any enforcement action by the county.
County officials, who have been promising to address the conflicting uses in the valley for five years, say they will deliver legislation to the County Council within a few weeks.
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“There are a lot of strong opinions on all sides of the issue. We’re trying to find a balance,” said Diane Carlson, director of regional initiatives for the executive. She said the proposed new rules would not allow events of the size and scale of the White Party.
Matthews Winery code violations date back to 2012 when the county cited the owners, Cliff and Diane Otis, for converting a garage into a tasting room without a building permit. Seven other tasting rooms were slapped with violation notices in 2015, but the county put all enforcement action on hold while it commissioned a wine-industry study and yearlong stakeholder review that concluded in August 2016.
In exchange, the offending businesses signed a settlement agreement with the county promising to not undertake any activity that would increase their “regulatory noncompliance.”
Cliff Otis said they have tried to follow all the county’s rules and obtain all…