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King County Ordinance #2018-0241.2 WILL SHUT DOWN VASHON TASTING ROOMS!

This is an urgent issue, and requires your action this week, prior to a King County Council committee meeting to be held on Monday, September 16th.

King County Ordinance #2018-0241.2


The alcohol beverage production industry (and wineries in particular) has seen significant growth within King County over the last 20 years.  This growth has been concentrated in the Sammamish Valley area around Woodinville, and the county was remiss in implementing and enforcing legislation that would manage the growth appropriately.  Without a doubt, it has created conflict between the residents of Sammamish Valley.  In recent years, the county has begun to take action to attempt to appease the residents of this area and prevent future issues related to development.

In 2016, the County Executive requested, and the Council approved, an appropriation of $75,000 for the Office of Performance, Strategy and Budget to hire a consultant to conduct a study to develop recommendations to improve the interface of the burgeoning wine industry with the surrounding communities. The study focused entirely on the Sammamish Valley area.

What does this have to do with us?  Good question!  The consultant never spoke to a single stakeholder on Vashon Island, nor did they conduct any kind of economic analysis for Vashon Island regarding the impact an ordinance change might have on the existing winery businesses on the island, or the community as a whole.  And yet, an ordinance has been proposed that would apply across all of unincorporated King County and would have a direct and severe impact on the Vashon Island community. Click here for a link to Ordinance 2018-0241.2


The small beverage producers on Vashon Island, are a valuable part of the community and the economy on the island.  They employ islanders at  facilities and tasting rooms, regularly donate to non-profit organizations on the island, and  bring customers to the island that visit  tasting rooms year round. These visitors explore Vashon and spend their money in the other businesses on the island – in shops, art galleries, restaurants, and lodging, to name a few.  If the proposed ordinance is implemented without Councilmember McDermott’s amendment, this ordinance will have a significant negative impact on the Vashon economy and on many small businesses on the island.


If approved, the legislation that is before the King County Council will implement codes that require wineries, breweries, and distilleries to meet certain criteria in order to continue to operate their businesses.  The criteria and restrictions are long and complicated, but include minimum parcel sizes, set backs from parcel boundaries, access to arterial roads, among other things.

This past June 12th, several of the Vashon Island producers attended the King County Council meeting where this ordinance was presented for discussion and public comment. While listening to the public comments, it was abundantly clear again that the proposed legislation is meant to mitigate issues that are very specific to Sammamish Valley.  Vashon Island is a completely different part of unincorporated King County, with a very different (and fragile) economy, and the existing beverage producers on Vashon Island have not created any of the issues within residential areas that exist in Sammamish Valley.  It makes no sense for the county to apply these legislative changes across the board.

With that in mind, Councilmember McDermott has worked closely with all of the producers on Vashon Island to draft a proposed amendment to the ordinance that would allow the existing beverage producers on Vashon Island to continue operating their businesses.  Any new businesses that are established would be required to comply with all of the new ordinances.

The legislation is being considered again and will be voted on by the King County Council on Monday, September 16th.  It is very important that we take action as a community to voice our concerns regarding the proposed ordinance and the impact that it will have on Vashon Island if the amendment proposed by Councilmember McDermott is not also approved.

The beverage producers on Vashon Island, have spent years of their lives and their savings investing in having a businesses on Vashon.  When they established their businesses, they all did everything that  was necessary to obtain  Federal permits and State licenses to legally operate on the land that we they own.  To have a businesses potentially shut down because of an ordinance that was designed to solve problems in another part of the county is absolutely egregious


Please take action with us and make phone calls or send emails supporting Councilmember McDermott’s proposed amendment to the legislation.  The other members of the King County Council need to hear that this amendment is important for them to approve.

You can use the following talking points when you call or email:

“Hello, my name is ____ and I am a member of the community on Vashon Island.  I am calling/emailing to voice support for the amendment that Councilmember McDermott has proposed to the winery, brewery, and distillery ordinance that you will be addressing in committee this coming Monday, September 16th.

 As King County was developing recommendations for this ordinance, the fact that they did not conduct any research or stakeholder analysis on Vashon Island is absolutely inexcusable.

  • The wineries and breweries on Vashon Island are integral to the community on the island, and contribute to the economy in ways that are very important to many of the island businesses. Tasting room visitors and wine club members that come to Vashon to visit the winery and cidery businesses, then often head into town and spend their money in the shops and restaurants on Vashon before returning home.
  • The wineries, cideries, and breweries on Vashon Island have never had any complaints like what the community in Sammamish Valley has experienced.
  • At least five of the wineries and cideries on the island are also supporting the agricultural heritage and nature of the island by using grapes, apples, and pears that are harvested from their own vineyards and orchards or the vineyards and orchards of other island residents.
  • Vashon Island already suffers from a fragile local economy because so many residents commute off island for work. King County needs to find better ways to support small business development on Vashon Island, and to support the existing businesses that are already operating here, rather than enacting ordinances that will shut them down and create more decline in the economic activity of our constrained local community.


If the winery, brewery, and distillery ordinance passes on Monday in committee, you must also vote to approve the amendment proposed by Councilmember McDermott for his constituents on Vashon Island.”

Here is a list of the King County Council members that you should contact.  Please call or email them all, or as many as you can.

Rod Dembowski, Council Chair, District 1

Larry Gossett, District 2

Kathy Lambert, District 3

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, District 4

Dave Upthegrove, District 5

Claudia Balducci, Council Vice Chair, District 6

Pete von Reichbauer, District 7

Reagan Dunn, Council Vice Chair, District 9

And please call or email our own Councilmember and thank him for his proposed amendment and his efforts on behalf of the Vashon community.

Joe McDermott, District 8