County makes it easier for wineries to hold events

Jackson County wineries and farm stands soon will have less red tape, fees and restrictions to deal with when holding events on-site.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is bringing land-use ordinances for farm stands and wineries in line with Oregon House Bill 3280, which lawmakers passed during the 2011 session.

Under the revised ordinances, these facilities will be able to host special events, such as weddings or concerts (with local permit), up to 25 days a year.

The amount in land-use fees paid when wineries open will drop from $1,665 to $787. The amount of time the county will need to process applications will drop from about 70 days to about 20 days.

"The application is less complicated to process," said Kelly Madding, development services director for Jackson County, adding the county has up to 150 days to process applications under the state statute.

Revisions to the local ordinance are expected to go into effect at the end of July.

"This is really an effort to, I think, allow wineries to showcase their product in different ways," Madding said. "State law hasn't made it easy for wineries to do events. This is making it considerably easier to do these types of events."

Of the total merchandise sold on exclusive farm use land, 75 percent of the revenue has to come from site-specific products, the ordinance states. Up to 25 percent can come from events and incidental products, such as souvenirs. The zoning laws for those wanting to construct a new winery or farm stand will go unchanged.

"This doesn't give you any free passes," said Board of Commissioners Chairman Don Skundrick.

The board will host a public hearing for a second reading of the ordinances at 1:30 p.m. today at the Jackson County Courthouse Auditorium, 10 S. Oakdale Ave. Madding said the hearing is to clarify ordinance language and make sure it is in line with the state law.

M. Kim Lewis, co-owner of Main Street Wine & Artisan Food Tours in Ashland, says the new changes are a step in the right direction for the county and state. Previously, numerous wineries and farm stands had been limited on the amount of tours they could host for Lewis' customers. He said the ordinance gives them increased flexibility.

"I think it's all part of Oregon growing into their newfound industry," Lewis said. "I can say that the demand for wineries as a venue — outside of public halls or churches or traditional places for event gatherings — (has) quadrupled in demand, and that's a nice thing. It's nice to open that up to the public for its best use."

The ordinance could also be problematic for neighbors living near the wineries.

Past efforts by some wineries to hold more special events have drawn criticism from neighbors, who worried about increased noise and traffic.

Lewis said he thinks most wineries will be conscientious of this and speak with those affected by the increased traffic loads.

"That's where the good neighbor policy comes in," Lewis said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at

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