Spokane County Commissioners told members of the county planning commission to go back to work on a set of zoning rules for wedding and special event centers on Green Bluff and in other small-tract agricultural areas of the county.
Farmers and other residents of the popular farm area in northeast Spokane County have been divided on whether event centers should be allowed to operate.
Currently, the county allows farms to sell directly to the public and to offer harvest activities four days a week from mid-June through October.
Commissioners on Monday told planning commissioners that wedding and special events facilities could be included in that arrangement.
“You do the work. You do the lifting. You find the compromises,” County Commissioner Al French told planning commissioners.
The planning commission in May voted not to change the county’s zoning code to allow wedding and event centers in the small agricultural zone. The planning group said that restrictions were needed.
Concerns involve noise, traffic, parking, lighting, fire safety, alcohol consumption and frequency of events, as well as the loss of farm land for event structures and adjacent parking.
Planning commissioners said they will form a committee that includes Green Bluff residents on both sides of the issue to seek a compromise.
County Commissioner Todd Mielke said that weddings have been held on Green Bluff for years, but the county zoning code doesn’t specifically allow private farm businesses to host them as part of their farm-oriented operations.
He said allowing weddings is reasonable if the businesses are following the county’s policy of having at least nine acres of land under farm or Christmas tree production.
He said he visited two wedding venues on Green Bluff Road on Saturday evening and found that both were quiet events that generated little traffic. The loudest noise came from a distant tractor, he said. All vehicles were parked on the grounds of the two venues.
Planning Commission Chairwoman Joyce McNamee said wedding and special event facilities are inappropriate in farm areas. She said sound travels across the countryside and is bothersome to people who like the quiet of rural life.
“We as a planning commission have to think of the neighbors,” she said.
Under the concept being discussed, there is nothing to prevent any small-tract agricultural land owner from setting up a wedding shop, McNamee said.
“We feel that’s a Pandora’s Box,” she said.
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