Growth Management Hearings Board rules against beverage ordinance

Courtesy photo

Bob Kirkpatrick

By virtue of a unanimous vote on Monday, Jan.3, the Growth Management Hearings Board decreed King County violated the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the Growth Management Act (GMA) when it adopted its Adult Beverage Ordinance (ABO).

According to a Jan. 6 press release from Brenda Vanderloop with Friends of Sammamish Valley (FoSV), the ordinance, sponsored by former King County District 3 Councilmember Kathy Lambert, would have allowed alcoholic beverage sales businesses to locate on farmland and rural areas throughout King County.

Vanderloop said the Board ruled against the zoning ordinance because King County failed to identify and evaluate environmental impacts and did not ensure the protection of agricultural lands, salmon habitats, open spaces, and rural areas’ character as required by law.

“The Board determined that the County’s amended development regulations were inconsistent with state law and the County’s own comprehensive plan,” Vanderloop said. “The Board also found that the Adult Beverage Ordinance would likely lead to proliferation of incompatible adult beverage businesses in rural and farming areas that are not served by sewers, storm drainage, roads, sidewalks, and other public infrastructure that is required for these urban type businesses.

“A finding of invalidity means that development applications for adult beverage businesses cannot be approved until a new ordinance that complies with state law is adopted by the County.”

Local nonprofit environmental organizations Friends of Sammamish Valley (FoSV) and Futurewise led the two-year battle challenging the beverage ordinance. Along with other nonprofits, farmers, rural and urban residents, businesses, and community groups, they challenged the County’s action by filing petitions with the Growth Management Hearings Board.

“It has been a long road to get to this decision,” said FoSV Executive Director Serena Glover. “We are pleased the Board agreed with our assertion that the Ordinance violates SEPA and the GMA, and further recognized the flaw in the County’s foundational premise that the Ordinance tightened up regulations.”

According to the release, the Board initially invalidated the ABO in May 2020 because it did not comply with SEPA and GMA regulations. King County appealed that decision to King County Superior Court on procedural grounds. The Board then thoroughly reviewed SEPA and GMA regulations and resubmitted its findings, which led to the unanimous decision King County violated both Acts.

“As our region faces massive growth pressures, King County citizens, urban and rural alike, enjoy a quality of life enhanced by the preservation of our rural areas, farms, forest lands and open spaces due to decades of land-use policies anchored by the State Growth Management Act of 1991,” said Michael Tanksley, vice president of the Hollywood Hill Association. “We are pleased with the Board’s decision.”

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