Brewery faces opposition over agritourism events
The Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery in Newberg will seek approval for its agri-tourism permit on Thursday before the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners.
The brewery, founded in 2016, recently had its permit to hold agri-trouism events and a food cart, increased to 18 times annually. It additionally holds a permit allowing it have daily beer tastings year round.
The brewery had faced contention from neighbors in the past over its agri-tourism events. In February of 2017, for example, the board faced a challenge when neighbor David Wall filed an appeal of the brew pub's application to host events.
While Commissioner Mary Starrett noted her initial concern in 2017 about some of the language in the permit — such as the number of cars, people and duration of events — she conceded county ordinance allows wineries to host the same types of events.
"If wineries are permitted this similar use, how do we then deny the same uses and permissions to an enterprise that really just does the same thing with a different type of product?" she asked at the 2017 meeting. "If a winery was there and permitted, how do we turn around and say if you replace it with a brewery — it didn't make any sense to me."
Wall led the appeal during a January 2017 public hearing, saying what the brewery was proposing would make it a "bar disturbing the peace and tranquility of my pastureland and that of my neighbors." Other abutting neighbors submitted written testimony as well.
Earlier this spring, the brewery received a $30,000 grant to help build The Vines-to Steins Trail after several reviews from the city's Transient Lodging Tax (TLC) committee and passed with a vote of 10 to 2. The trail is a walking trail between Wolves & People and nearby A to Z winery.
Christian DeBenedetti, founder and head brewer at Wolves & People, spoke at a Newberg council meeting to explain to the members the intention of the trail.
"The trail is to be used to link the two businesses and it will only be open during business hours. It is more a private trail operated by our mutual businesses," DeBenedetti said.
DeBenedetti appeared before county planners in August, admitting the business did face significant amount of opposition to them renewing its permit.
He also admitted to beginning events at the brewery earlier than outlined in conditions, from noon to 8 p.m. instead of 2 to 10 p.m., but said he didn't realize he was breaking the rules. He stated he complied with other conditions.
"I believe the use has significantly conformed to the conditions of approval," he said in August. "These events really are in support of the farm."
He added that food is only served at the events permitted. Unlike other brewpubs, which are required to serve food, Wolves & People cannot.
There were a handful of testimonies from both proponents and opponents for the permit to be reapproved, including Wall, who also expressed doubt over the trail. He also indicated proper water tests were not done on area.
DeBenedetti called Wall's and others' accusations "cynical and negative and untrue."
"As someone who lives on the property with the brewery, the quality of life issues affect us directly," he said. "We live right next door to the brewery and any negative impacts affect our own quality of life. And we have a high quality of life."
The permit's conditions were changed to allow the brewery to hold agri-tourism events for no more than three consecutive days, not to exceed five hours on a Friday, eight hours on a Saturday and five hours on a Sunday, with all events ending by 9 p.m.
Planners said this would address any neighborhood concerns about headlight interference.
The approval was appealed to the county commissioners by the land-use advocacy group Friends of Yamhill County, an offshoot of 1000 Friends of Oregon based in McMinnville that states it wants to protect family farms and forests and conserve natural and scenic areas.
Testimony will be taken at Thursday's meeting at the Yamhill County court house.