LUBA delays decision on embattled Newberg brewery
An ongoing dispute between a local brewery and a group of disgruntled neighbors will continue into the summer as a decision from the Land Board Use of Appeals (LUBA) has been delayed until late July.
The Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery in Newberg, founded in 2016 by Christian DeBenedetti, has faced constant pushback from neighbors for the brewery's planned agri-tourism events. Although the brewery has received approval from several governing bodies – including the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners and the Newberg City Council – neighbors have fought back against the brewery's ability to host events, which included a food cart.
The main challenger and appellant to their renewal was Friends of Yamhill County, a subsidiary of 1000 Friends of Oregon, and neighbors such as David Wall who filed appeals to the brewery's application to host events.
The brewery's permit limits its events to 18 times a year, although it does hold a permit allowing it to serve beer tastings daily and year-round.
DeBenedetti said LUBA's decision had apparently been delayed until around July 17, which is about a month later than had been originally expected.
"We don't know a reason for the delay," he said in an email.
While Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett noted her initial concern back in 2017 about some of the language in the brewery's 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 a 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 in 2017, saying the brewery would disturb the peace and tranquility of the rural Newberg neighborhood on Benjamin Road.
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 as well.
The brewery continues to seek donations from supporters to help offset legal fees incurred throughout the process.
DeBenedetti, who is also head brewer, wrote on the company's website that they have been "hounded" by a small group of neighbors on what is essentially a "one-man, radical anti-development nonprofit led by a lawyer based in another town." He identified neither the attorney nor the neigbhors.
In the motion filed to LUBA by Friends of Yamhill County, the group states they believe the county failed to comply with several requirements for an application requesting a permit of more than six events per year. They state the requirements must be both "incidental and subordinate to existing commercial farm use of the tract" and "necessary to support the commercial farm uses or the commercial agricultural enterprises of the area."
"They county erred in several aspects in finding compliance with each of those requirements," the document states.
Opposition has also stated the brewery has become more akin to a full-fledged tavern, which is not the intended purpose.
In the meantime, Gov. Kate Brown has signed Bill 287, which establishes standards for farm breweries and lands zoned for exclusive farm use or mixed farm and forest use for breweries that produce less than 150,000 barrels per year total, and less than 15,000 produced on the farm brewery site. The bill take effect in January.
"We really believe that farmhouse brewing is one of the most innovative ways to save and protect farmland and for families to diversify their farms," DeBenedetti previously said.