County legalizes ‘mom and pop’ weddings

June 14

Hood River County has made it legal for couples to tie the knot in scenic settings at farms, bed and breakfast lodgings and wineries.

Although weddings and other related activities — such as musical entertainment — have been taking place for years, they were not previously allowed. Once the legality problem in the county’s land-use plan came to light last year, officials decided to draft an ordinance that addressed the issue in depth. They wanted to protect the income of “mom and pop” businesses as well as the quality of life for nearby residents.

The new county code allows owner/operators of wineries, farms and B&Bs to host social events only as a secondary income. Noise and traffic is regulated by restricting commercial events to one per day. The guest list is limited to 300 individuals and a detailed parking plan must be provided before a conditional use permit will be issued.

“I think these wise and reasonable rules should be a real source of pride in our community,” said Genevieve Scholl-Erdmann, public affairs officer for Hood River County Chamber of Commerce.

She stepped forward last summer to organize an advisory committee that nailed down potential problems from having a commercial event hosted in a residential setting.

The 12-member group was comprised of community members, agricultural representatives, business leaders, environmental proponents, and B&B owners. They spent eight months gathering information that could be incorporated into the new Article 73 and shield neighborhoods from undue noise and traffic.

Scholl-Erdmann was convinced that Hood River’s growing wedding trade could be accommodated without disturbing the tranquillity of other residents. She believed the county could not afford the economic hit that would occur if more than $500,000 in revenue was lost by denying the average wedding party of 168 guests a three-night stay.

In addition, she compiled data to show that each marriage ceremony cost about $22,360 and distributed these proceeds among an average of 12 other local businesses. B&B owners also appealed to the county not to deny a seasonal income source that helped them pay the bills when tourism dropped off in the winter.

The county put a stay on any enforcement action while Scholl-Erdmann’s committee set to work. The advisory body met once each week and paid such attention to every detail that other Oregon counties are now asking for a copy of the ordinance to address the same concerns.

“I serve on a lot of committees through my job and I was really surprised that this one could deal with so much minutia and still be so enjoyable. It really shows what can be done when people sit down and work in the best interests of their community,” she said.

A special parking zone is expected to be established along Westcliff Drive near the Lake Cliff B&B. Last year a neighbor objected to numerous occasions when cars were parked along both sides of that roadway and passage was restricted to one lane. The county has suspended any regulation of that area until it has worked out jurisdictional issues. The roadway lies within an urban growth area along Interstate 84 that was annexed by the city several years ago but is also within the Oregon Department of Transportation right-of-way.

The county wants to ensure that all involved agencies are in agreement with a final plan. The city has requested that a parking zone be established 50 feet east of the Westcliff Drive/Cascade Avenue intersection. City officials also want all parking to be off the pavement and parallel to the street. The county board will revisit the matter at its June 21 meeting.

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