An Open Letter to the Clark County Board of Commissioners

Below is the text of an email I sent to my local County Commissioners on their recent proposal to set “rules” for winery operations here in Clark County, WA.

You can read up on the background here and here.

Now, I’m not against noise ordinances or rules set forth by the county, but when the laws are requesting the wineries do something that is contradictory to other event facilities in the county, I have a serious problem with it.

If you’d like to make your voice heard on this issue, please feel free to contact Commissioner Steve Stuart, Commissioner David Madore and Commissioner Tom Mielke here.

Gentlemen of the Board of Clark County Commissioners:

I am writing you as a representative. Not as a representative for the wine industry here in Clark County, but as a voice for the consumer via my blog, One Girl, One Glass, One World.

I am a voice for those who buy the wines that are produced not only here in Clark County, but those who buy wines from around the world.

I am appalled that you, our elected representatives, have chosen to place a proverbial stake through the heart of an industry that is just beginning to blossom here in the county. How is restricting the times a winery can hold an event, much less the number of events a winery can hold in a year, conducive to creating a winery-friendly, much less a small business friendly, culture in this county?

I recently returned from the 6th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference. During the conference we visited the Okanagan Valley and the cities of Osoyoos, Oliver and Penticton, British Columbia, and we were immersed in a weekend of being wined and dined by the wineries there. Even with the archaic laws that prohibit the wineries of British Columbia from shipping beyond their own provincial borders, 250 representatives of the media, wine industry and wine blogging community that participated in the conference, were given the red-carpet treatment by the wine industry and the local government.

Why?

The reason is simple. Penticton, Oliver, Osoyoos and the Okanagan Valley wanted to create buzz about the happenings in the Great White North. They wanted us to drive tourism traffic there. They wanted us, the members of the blogging community and media to create so much buzz that their government would be ridiculous to not give in and look into changing their archaic laws.

And create buzz we did. Through social media outlets, we were reaching out to millions of people, some of whom aren’t aware of the conference’s existence, but they were learning about the wines of British Columbia through sheer curiosity.

By enacting these rules in Clark County, especially where no live events will be allowed at a winery between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., you will not create a culture that will make a conference such as the Wine Bloggers Conference consider Clark County as either an excursion for a conference based in Portland or a host location for the conference, as many of the on-site events at these conferences involve music, chatter and people being merry…and go well after 7 p.m. In fact, at 7 p.m., the party is just beginning at these conferences.

Also, by enacting these rules, you’re creating a double standard. We all know that the concerts at the Amphitheater are louder than anything Mr. and Mrs. Brown of Rusty Grape Vineyards could ever have at their location. So why not tell the promoters of the concerts at the Amphitheater, “Hey, your concert has to be over by 7 p.m. because the county rules say so,” just as you’re telling Mr. and Mrs. Brown to do. I’m sure the residents of the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association would appreciate a 12 hour quiet ordinance. Not to mention asking the Fair Board to end the Clark County Fair by 7 p.m., as I’m sure that the screams from the patrons enjoying the carnival are just as disruptive to the residents of the neighborhood.

Even better, let’s tell the Fort Vancouver National Trust that our beloved, annual “Independence Day at the Fort” can only go until 7 p.m. (and yes, this includes the fireworks show being over by then as well). I’m sure we’d all agree that the Trust would comply to that rule, like you’re asking Mr. and Mrs. Brown to do.

How about asking the City of Vancouver to end the “Six to Sunset” concert series by 7 p.m. to meet this rule? I’m sure that the city would comply to this rule as well, since the residents of the three apartment complexes and guests of the Hilton hotel surrounding Esther Short Park are entitled to a peaceful evening at home or in their hotel rooms, without the sounds of live music disturbing them.

What’s good for the goose (in this case, the wineries of Clark County) is good for the gander (the rest of the events that happen in Clark County), right?

Gentlemen, the rules you’re proposing are inane and discriminatory towards small businesses and potentially damaging to the prospect of Clark County becoming a true wine destination on par with the Willamette Valley.

I respectfully request that you rescind these rules as written and place into effect rules that are fair and equal for all events that take place within our county…not just events that happen at a winery.

And for the record, when a Clark County wine can impress not only the Communications Director for one of the major wineries in California, but 15 members of the media and blogging community, it is proof that we have something special here in the county that should be promoted by our elected representatives, not treated like a bug on a windshield.

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