New rules governing weddings on Green Bluff are coming up for a round of public debate at the Spokane County Courthouse later this month.
The county commissioners have spent the past year considering a series of measures to allow weddings and other social events in small-agriculture zones with the goal of keeping them consistent with agricultural uses and ensuring public safety is protected.
Their work stems from complaints coming from Green Bluff residents concerned about noise, traffic, drunken driving and over-commercialization.
Proposed changes would expand on special-event zoning rules enacted in 2002 to help small farmers by allowing direct marketing of their products along with seasonal harvest events.
The bluff in northeast Spokane County has become a huge draw during the growing season with long lines of people and vehicles, especially in the fall.
The current rules require that event businesses have to be engaged in agriculture. The current season runs from mid-June through October and is limited to Fridays through Mondays.
The proposals under consideration would limit events to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from the first weekend in May through the last weekend of October. Closing time would be 10 p.m. versus the current limit of 6 p.m. Commissioners are also considering a 9 p.m. closing time.
No more than 25 events per season would be allowed at each venue. Events are defined as weddings, graduations, corporate gatherings or private personal celebrations or similar occasions.
The proposed rules say that event uses should “support, promote or sustain agricultural operations and production.”
In an attempt to prevent overdevelopment, the proposals limit the area being converted to events to no more than one acre in addition to the existing residence. Those facilities would have to be located “in the general area” of the residence or outbuildings as a way to preserve open farmland. The event area would also have to be an accessory use to the farm and residence, not the primary use.
Another issue involves water supply in case of a fire. Green Bluff has limited sources of water, including a supply line from Whitworth Water District intended for residential uses, not irrigation.
Fire officials have been concerned about adequate flow in case of a fire in an enclosed building. Indoor event facilities would be required to provide adequate flow to obtain a building permit.
Also, the local fire district would have to be notified seven days in advance of events.
County commissioners are considering three regulatory schemes – allowing the venues as a limited use, temporary use or conditional use.
The limited use would require no additional permits once a building permit is obtained. Event venues would then be expected to operate within the limited-use standards.
Under temporary and conditional uses, owners would have to obtain additional permits from the county. Temporary use would require annual permits.