By editorial board • 

Agri-tourism issue not fully settled, but case-by-case system is working

The recent application of the Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery for on-site tasting approval fostered some oh-so-common opposition, much of which can be tossed aside, but also positive and useful big-picture dialog. The lesson we draw from its path to county commissioners approval is this: The current case-by-case approach to local consideration seems to be working.

As County Planning Director Ken Friday noted in the initial staff approval, value-added business undertakings in agricultural settings, featuring food, drink and music events as well as product sampling and sales, has been fostering debate for two decades. And Yamhill County has been in the thick of it, thanks to the wine industry.

Competing interests eventually joined forces on legislation intended to strike a balance between conserving farmland and affording its owners expanded revenue opportunities. One aim was to level the playing field between grape-processing and other types of craft-style on-site agricultural processing.
In conjunction, Yamhill County streamlined its application process, allowing the planning staff to make the initial decision and involving commissioners only on appeal.

Opposition to the brewery approval, triggering such an appeal, occurred on two fronts.

First, a neighbor raised the usual litany of hyperbolic noise and traffic complaints, suggesting approval would sound a death knell for rural tranquility.
Such fears hardly ever pan out in practice. After all the hullabaloo dies down, neighbors typically find their lives have barely been affected.

Second, another common source of opposition weighed in, the land use advocacy group Friends of Yamhill County. It has long been highly skeptical of any commercial activity in farm zones not directly related to food production.

According to a recent report, almost two-thirds of Oregon’s farmland may be transferred into new ownership over the next 20 years by aging family owners, placing a premium on fostering more next-generation farmers.

On-site agri-tourism promotion may provide just the spark it takes to recruit newcomers into Oregon’s second largest industry. We believe a moderate amount of activity in rural areas benefits not just farms and farmers, but community and culture as well.

We appreciate the Friends mission of protecting farmland, and its role as a counterbalance to irrevocable redevelopment, despite often taking issue with its tactics and arguments in particular cases.

In this instance, we were pleased to see a further petition to the state Land Use Board of Appeals fail for lack of timely submission. Rules affecting future farm use should be made through affected parties at the table, not LUBA. 

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