Brides throughout Spokane are breathing a sigh of relief as Green Bluff officially opens its orchards for weddings.
Just looking around it's easy to see why couples would want to have their weddings on Green Bluff and now a recent change in the Spokane County zoning ordinance now establishes rules for who can and can't host a wedding at the popular destination.
County commissioners changed the zoning ordinance which allows anyone with property zoned small tract agricultural to host weddings or events. There are several limitations however: You can only have 25 events per year, limited to 200 people and the season for those events stretches from the beginning of May to the end of October.
There have always been weddings on Green Bluff and for good reason. The views and smells are magnificent. But there weren't rules on who could or couldn't host one, until now.
"We have about 20 weddings planned for the year and some more for next year and they decided 25 weddings max a year so that works perfect for us," said Teri Story, owner High Country Orchards.
Story said changes in zoning by the county are a vote in favor of small business.
"It was already the things that we were doing to try and keep noise level down and traffic down so for us it really did fit," said Story.
Anyone hosting a wedding or events must now apply for a conditional use permit from the county. Some restriction include keeping agriculture as the primary land use and only having events Friday through Sunday. But others on Green Bluff are concerned too many weddings and events will swarm out the area's historic agriculture.
"There really are no methods or means for the county to verify their own enforcement standards or the standards for the temporary use, they just don't exist," said Derek Hansen of Hansen Orchards.
Hansen is also concerned the county won't be able to enforce its own rules and only be able to respond to complaints.
"How are they looking at if there are 25 events per year? Who's monitoring it if there are 200 guests at the events?" asked Hansen.
Another stipulation for the permit is that all events end at 9 p.m. which could be tough to enforce.
"We're just going to keep being a good neighbor the best we can. We are so aware of the noise, we're always closing doors and keeping music down and we're just going to keep doing that and being the best neighbors we can be," said Story.
The county is now proceeding with a finding of fact and writing a resolution.
County commissioners plan to sign that resolution at a public hearing in the near future. The board of commissioners will have the option of not renewing a owners permit if they're found in violation of the rules.