By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Court affirms county's Stoller handling

“We are, of course, disappointed with the decision,” said Sid Friedman of Friends of Yamhill County. But he said he took heart from this statement in the ruling: “We agree with LUBA that the county’s approval of 44 events annually and a commercial kitchen at the Stoller Winery comes dangerously close to creating a scenario  in which the incidental and secondary activities (events and food service) overtake the primary activity (the processing and selling of wine).”

Friedman went on to say, “We can only hope Stoller Vineyards will exercise its approval in a way that respects its neighbors and other farm interests.

“There has been a proliferation of similar county approvals in farm zones over the last few years. Their cumulative impacts place a tremendous responsibility on county staff to ensure compliance with the permits so that these commercial activities don’t harm the larger community. Unfortunately, there has been no systematic monitoring enforcement to date.”

For County Planning Director Mike Brandt, the appellate court affirmation was welcome news.

“It’s a double-win for us to have both LUBA and the Court of Appeals say that what we’ve been doing for more than 18 years is correct,” Brandt said. “We like the process we’ve had for all these years, because there is room for common sense and an opportunity for public comment and local review. We can customize each permit for the particular property and take into account neighbor concerns, the surrounding area and what is being proposed.”

He dismissed Friedman’s enforcement concerns, saying the process allows for the county to enact provisions drawing complaints from neighbors if they aren’t followed. “It becomes black and white as the contract is created, and I think people appreciate that customized approach,” he said.

Fortunately, Brandt said, the wine industry has made good stewardship the rule rather than the exception.

“I think people within the industry are protective of the landscape and environment, more so than ever before,” he said. “This is a time where there is a lot of cooperation from the industry.”

Friends could appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court. Friedman said it hasn’t discussed that possibility yet.

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