Small businesses often run into big problems. And they don’t have the resources to hire lawyers and fight for fairness. Instead, they need an advocate that can help them navigate a reasonable, cost effective solution.
The following case study is a great example of how we help small business:
The Day We Saved the Wine
John Bell parlayed his passion for wine into Willis Hall Winery in 2003. By 2006, Seattle Magazine awarded him “Best New Winemaker in Washington.”
However, in late 2007 Snohomish County initiated a code enforcement action against Willis Hall Winery threatening to shut down the operation for failure to comply with the county’s home occupation code. Mr. Bell hired a land use attorney to appeal the enforcement action, but such an appeal had some risks and was a slow process. With millions of dollars invested, John couldn’t afford to shut down his winery or move aging barrels of wine to a new location.
Willis Hall retained our company in early 2008 to assist his land use counsel in the appeal of the County’s order, as well as explore non-legal remedies.
Seeking to avoid litigating the matter, our company proposed several alternative technical solutions – offering research that his business may be a grandfathered use, applying for a code interpretation that the winery was an incidental use to the residence, and seeking an administrative zoning variance under a set of binding conditions. All of these solutions were rejected by county staff.
With the appeal hearing looming, we put on our lobbyist cap and approached the County Council. Recognizing the politics of shutting a business down, the Council Chairman was willing to consider adding an amendment to a zoning ordinance pending before the Council, providing a legal basis for the Willis Hall to exist.
Our company drafted the language for the amendment and worked with the prosecuting attorney’s office and planning department to ensure it wouldn’t run afoul of any growth management laws.
A short time later the County Council approved the amendment and Willis Hall was saved.