LUBA returns decision on local brewery to the county
The seemingly never-ending dispute between a Newberg brewery and a group of disgruntled neighbors has been continued once again after a state agency sent a recent decision back to the county.
The state Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) ruled Aug. 2 that Yamhill County's approval of an event permit for Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery was flawed. The brewery, founded in 2016 by Christian DeBenedetti, has faced constant pushback from neighbors for the brewery's planned agri-tourism events. The brewery is also home to a hazelnut orchard.
The brewery received approval from several agencies – including the Yamhill County Board of Commissioners and the Newberg City Council – but neighbors have fought back against the brewery's ability to host events, which included hosting a food cart.
The main challenger and appellant to the business' renewal was land-use watchdog group Friends of Yamhill County (an offshoot of 1000 Friends of Oregon) and neighbors such as David Wall, who filed appeals to the brewery's application to host events.
Friends of Yamhill County and Joyce Damman were the petitioners at the LUBA meeting, while the county and DeBenedetti were the respondents. DeBenedetti could not be reached for comment.
The brewery's permit would limit their events to 18 times a year, although the business does hold a permit allowing it to serve beer tastings daily year-round.
However, a 34-page document from LUBA states that Wolves & People ran into two problems in its conclusion. The first is that agri-tourism events are "necessary to support the commercial farm uses or the commercial agricultural enterprises in the area." The second is that legislative history "regarding the enactment to the provision does not indicate that the Legislature intended something other than the ordinary meanings be attached to the words 'necessary' and 'support.'"
The document states the Legislature realized the difficulty in establishing events that are "necessary to support" farms or other commercial agricultural businesses.
"Accordingly, we construe the statute to require that in order to establish that proposed events are 'necessary to support' either the commercial farm uses on the farm or commercial agricultural enterprises in the area within the meaning of the statute, the county must find that the events are essential in order to maintain the existence of either the commercial farm or the commercial agricultural enterprises in the area," the document reads.
LUBA decided that Yamhill County erred in applying the term "necessary" to the first prong of the test, whether the events are necessary to support the commercial farm use of the property.
LUBA also found that 18 events being necessary for the brewery was not supported by the evidence.
"What the county must determine under the first prong is whether the events are 'necessary to support' the commercial farm use, the filbert farm, not whether the events are necessary to support, supplement or augment revenue from the brewery, which is not the commercial farm use but is an approved non-farm commercial activity on the farm," the decision stated. "The county erred in considering whether the events will support, supplement or augment revenue generated from the brewery in determining whether the commercial events are necessary to support the existing commercial farm use of the tract. We also agree with petitioners that the county's finding that 'the proposed events are necessary for the applicant and landowner to continue to make a profit in money from farm uses taking place on the property' is not supported by any evidence in the record. …
Intervenor argues in his response brief that it is difficult to generate income to maintain the property as a farm. However, intervenor does not identify any evidence in the record revealing the income from the existing farm use or estimated event income, let alone how the event income is "necessary" to support the commercial farm use of the tract.
"Under the second prong, the county must determine whether the events are 'necessary to support,' that is, essential to maintain the existence of "the eight commercial agricultural enterprises in the area." As noted above, the county considered the entire county to be "the area" for purposes of the statute, and petitioners do not challenge that interpretation. The county found that the proposed beer tasting events will bring more tourists to the county, and that those tourists may patronize other agricultural institutions in the county. Petitioners argue, and we agree, that the county's finding that the events are necessary to support the commercial agricultural enterprises in the area is not supported by any evidence in the record. Intervenor does not identify any evidence supporting a conclusion that the event is "necessary to support" the commercial agricultural enterprises in the area."
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