Chelan County: Blueberry farm in jam over agricultural zoning
June 24, 2003
MANSON, WA (AP) -- A couple's efforts to turn their old apple acreage into a destination blueberry farm has put them at odds with their neighbors and Chelan County zoning laws.
In November, they were ready to go commercial with blueberry-processing equipment in a new barn, retail space for blueberry products and a restaurant, featuring blueberry pies and waffles along with hamburgers, french fries and pasta dishes.
This summer, they'll open their farm for its first "U-pick" season.
But the Sorensens' country neighbors, Jill and Steve Gustafson, complained to the county about the fledgling Blueberry Hills operation, less than a half mile east of this Lake Chelan town.
"I support ag tourism," said Steve Gustafson, who moved to Manson from Palm Springs, Calif., about 13 years ago. "But let's put the rules down on paper here. That's what I'm asking: What are the ground rules going to be?"
The Sorensens' building permit and local zoning regulations don't allow them to serve food unrelated to the produce grown on site, according to Ryan Walker, Chelan County code enforcement officer.
If they don't comply with the regulations by Aug. 1, they could face civil penalties of $750 per violation, he said in a May 23 letter to the couple.
The Chelan County Planning Commission is considering amendments to the code that could help out the Sorensens and others like them by allowing food service as a conditional use in an agricultural zone.
The zoning changes would make it easier for people to develop agricultural tourism opportunities, said Hank Manriquez, president of the Cascade Foothills Farmland Association, a Peshastin-based group that has promoted agricultural tourism as a means to help sustain farming.
Both the county Planning Commission and the county's board of commissioners are holding public hearings on the matter.
The case raises questions about restrictions on agricultural tourism, an emerging industry that combines traditional farming with everything from hay rides to holiday parties.
Ventures such as Blueberry Hills are "extremely important for economic development, to diversify and hopefully save the family farm," said Colleen Crawford-Davis, director of the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce.
Steve Gustafson contends that he has a "right to enjoy my peace and quiet," and he has argued that ag-tourism businesses could compete directly with downtown merchants.
Linda Sorensen, whose grandparents were north-central Washington homesteaders, contends she and her husband are getting encouragement from the business community.
Gustafson said he believes proposed zoning amendments for ag tourism
are too vague, and he'd like to see restrictions on things such as
hours of operation and any signs that might be used.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]