DAYTON — Monteillet Fromagerie’s legal battle with Columbia County is poised to continue after the Planning Commission voted against recommending the cheesemaker’s proposed zoning amendment to the County Commission.
Once planners complete written facts and findings, expected by the end of the week, county commissioners will consider the amendment at a future meeting.
The Planning Commission spent about 20 minutes Monday discussing the amendment, which would allow on-site sales of agricultural products as a conditional use in the county’s AR-1 zone, where Joan and Pierre-Louis Monteillet live, raise goats and sheep, and make and sell cheese.
Fred Clark, Ron Groom and Swan Eaton voted against recommending the amendment, and Jason Towery and Jay Ball voted for recommendation. Commissioner Bryan Martin was absent.
Planning commissioners who voted against recommendation raised concerns that the amendment, as worded, would mean on-site sale of any agricultural product could be allowed in the zone.
“I am not opposed to a farmer selling his goods at his place,” Clark said, while explaining why he felt the amendment text was too broad.
Groom also expressed concerns that the proposed wording would have allowed marijuana growers to sell their product on-site.
Ball, however, said the amendment allowed sales as conditional uses only, which would still give the county the opportunity to deny a permit for an individual business seeking to do on-site sales.
Ball and Towery also cited the overwhelming public testimony in favor of the amendment at the Commission’s June 9 hearing, where 28 people spoke or wrote letters in favor of the amendment and no one spoke in opposition.
Groom countered that many of those testifying were from outside Columbia County.
“About 95 percent of those were from Walla Walla County. We didn’t really have much of a turnout from Columbia County,” said Groom.
Of the speakers and letters entered into the record, at least 16 listed an address in Waitsburg or Walla Walla, while 10 lived in the Dayton area.
Clark also said he felt the zoning would conflict with the county’s comprehensive plan, which says that encroachment by other uses should be discouraged in areas designated for residential development.
Ball said he initially though that too, but felt the AR-1 zone is meant to be agricultural, not strictly residential.
The Monteillets’ attorney, Mike Hubbard, said he was baffled by Planning Commission’s decision.
“They don’t seem to appreciate what conditional use means,” he said.
The Monteillets did not attend Monday’s meeting because they were “busy making cheese,” Hubbard said.
Rachel Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 509-526-8363.