• Woodinville residents file complaints over so-called rogue wine tasting rooms

    By: David Ham


    WOODINVILLE, Wash. - The King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review says eight wine tasting rooms right outside of Woodinville are operating in violation of county code.

    Mike Tanksley is the president of the Hollywood Hill Association and filed a few of the complaints because he believes there might be an excess of wine tasting rooms in the area.

    "The pressures around growth around here are tremendous and as this phenomenon of wineries has taken off around here it's really just a small part of the bigger story of the success of polices that have been put in place over the past decades," said Tanksley.

    Within Woodinville city limits, there are more than 100 wine tasting rooms.

    "There's a little bit of an overflow," said Tanksley.

    The county says the tasting rooms are in violation because they are operating on property zoned agricultural but using them for commercial purposes.

    "King County for the last few years has been  missing in action on upholding their own policies and that's the big problem."

    Sal Leone owns one of the tasting rooms operating in violation and doesn't believe he's doing anything wrong.

    "Most of us believe we're doing the best we can with the way the laws are written," said Leone, owner of Silver Lake Winery.

    He's appealing the violation because he says he is using the land for agricultural purposes.

    "A winery is really no different than a fruit stand. or a dairy," said Leone.

    The tasting rooms in violation can continue to operate as long as they are going through the appeal process.

    "He's flagrantly thumbing his nose at the county policies and the community around here and the businesses that have worked within the county policies, said Tanksley regarding Leone's violation.

    The county says the violations are issued driven by complaints.

    Tanksley still blames the county for not enforcing the code more aggressively.

    "People said, 'oh they're cute, why worry about a couple of cute little developments like this.' That was a mistake because as more and more of them start to grow and become more egregious violations," said Tanksley.

    But Leone also says the county's code should be clearer.

    "There's confusion, there is misunderstandings and it has in my opinion it has created the problem of neighbor against neighbor because of this very vague and lack of uniformity and how we apply the rules," said Leone.

    Jim Chan, assistant director for permitting in the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review said the county is enforcing the code and that property owners have the right to due process.

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