Winery and city reach accord

A mediator helps forge an agreement on retail sales.

They may indeed sell wine before it’s time.

A mediator Thursday forged an agreement between Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery and the city planning department to allow some retail sales at the winery’s new Day Road location, even as the City Council debates farming code revisions to permit such sales.

The agreement – which was not available at press time, but the substance of which was confirmed by Mayor Darlene Kordonowy and winery co-owner Gerard Bentryn – will be presented to the council for consideration at its meeting Wednesday.

Bentryn praised the mediator for his understanding of the city code, and creativity in applying it.

“He was smarter than a lot of the people in the room, probably including me,” Bentryn said.

Bentryn, who recently sold for development his property near the ferry terminal, has been trying to re-establish the operation on Day Road East. The move has been complicated by permitting woes and construction hang-ups.

Also clouding the move has been a long-standing city ordinance that prohibits retail sale of farm products in residential zones outside of “harvest time.”

The Bentryn operation relies on by-the-bottle sales during winery tours for revenue; its Winslow operation was on commercially zoned land and was not subject to the ban on year-round retail sales.

Farm advocates have tried for years to get the ordinance changed, and the issue will finally get a public hearing before the council on Wednesday.

The council’s land use committee this week recommended a streamlined permitting process for local farms. Restrictions on the number of seasonal employees and traffic generated by roadside stands could be eased.

In the meantime, Mayor Darlene Kordonowy hailed the agreement with Bentryn, saying it gives specific parameters – in writing – by which the winery should be able to operate while the council deliberates.

“The city didn’t feel we could say, ‘It’s just Gerard – we’re going to get there,’” she said. “I’m glad (he) came to the table.”

The document reportedly gives a broad interpretation of the current ordinance, defining “harvest time” as being any period during which biological processes like wine fermentation are taking place.

“They wanted to make sure it was true – they didn’t want a cockamamie theory,” Bentryn said. “They asked, ‘Is it alive?’ I said, ‘Yes, it’s alive up to the day it’s bottled.’”

Bentryn said the winery should reopen in about two weeks. Whether it can weather the income loss incurred during the move is another question.

“We’re going to open – we’re just hoping we can stay open,” Bentryn said. “It kind of depends on how many people find us.”

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