More event venues may be permitted in rural Clark County, though it’s unclear what that would look like or who supports any permitting changes.
With the exception of wineries, private event venues are not permitted in rural parts of unincorporated Clark County. As the county considers code changes, it hosted a public forum Wednesday during which residents offered mixed reviews.
Rural landowners approached the Clark County Council earlier this year requesting changes to the county code, hoping for an opportunity to use their land to host weddings and other events, Community Development Director Mitch Nickolds said.
Several landowners, including those who operate wineries, have offered comments against expanding event venue permitting, citing impacts to their businesses. Other concerns included potential traffic headaches and noise.
A few dozen people participated in the forum Wednesday — the second of its kind this year — and Nickolds said he was surprised by the crowd size. When one commenter asked who was for or against rural event venues, the tally was split.
“The zoning code is pretty flexible,” Nickolds said. “But what’s happening is, there’s an increased amount of tourism, (agricultural) tourism, that people want to take advantage of.”
Mike Mitchell lives in the Black Hawk Estates neighborhood east of Battle Ground. He said during the forum that his neighbors have a winery and allow customers to drive over a private road that he helps to maintain.
“The roads are not designed or built for that type of traffic. We don’t want the added traffic, the noise level, the garbage,” Mitchell said. “We almost all moved out there to get away from the hustle and bustle.”
Mark Lopez owns a small farm in La Center. He voiced support for nonalcoholic rural event venues.
“We’re doing our best to be a viable farm,” Lopez said.
At least two winery owners, Don and Pam Klase of Dolio Winery in Battle Ground, have recommended changes to the code. The Klases, who host tasting and small group gatherings, fear that many startup businesses don’t have an adequate knowledge base to operate both a winery and a large-scale event center.
“We do understand the county’s desire to connect an agricultural venture with the rural event center concept, and that makes sense. However, a true winery is not in and of itself an event center,” the winery owners wrote in a comment submitted to the county.
In addition to the overarching question of the forum, residents raised other complicating factors. How many people, for instance, would be allowed per event? What types of events would be permitted?
One of the primary concerns was how the county, which doesn’t currently employ a night code enforcement officer, would enforce any additional permits. Nickolds said that as the county looks to strengthen its code enforcement process by next year, it will need to have the most updated version of the code.
Nickolds said any code changes would likely appear before the county council by the end of the year.
Additional written comments will be allowed through 5 p.m. Oct. 18. Comments can be submitted at firstname.lastname@example.org; the third-floor reception area of the Clark County Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St.; or P.O. Box 9810, Vancouver, WA 98660.