Futurewise Farmland Protection Case Heads to the State Supreme Court

December 22, 2023

View of a green farm field, with forested hill in the distance

For the first time since 2017, Futurewise has a court case before the Washington State Supreme Court. The Washington State Supreme Court will hear a case brought by Futurewise and Friends of Sammamish Valley regarding the King County Adult Beverage Ordinance. The decision in this case will have far-reaching implications for farmland protection across Washington state and the sustainability of our local food systems for generations to come.

In 2019, King County adopted the Adult Beverage Ordinance which changed development regulations to allow alcoholic beverage sale businesses — wine bars, taverns, and event centers — to locate on farmland and in rural areas throughout King County. This ordinance was later found by the Growth Management Hearings Board to violate both the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the Growth Management Act (GMA). A Court of Appeals decision overturned the GMHB decision, leaving the final decision with the State Supreme Court.

The decision from the State Supreme Court will have statewide impacts. Nationally, Washington is in the top two states for our policy response to protect agriculture and our success in preventing farmland conversion. The core of Washington’s farmland protection policy is the state Growth Management Act (GMA), which provides a state framework for protecting agricultural land from conversion to retail, industrial or residential uses. In farming communities across Washington, rapidly increasing land values put pressure on farms to sell land to the highest bidder. State regulations like the GMA ensure that agricultural lands remain designated as such, protecting farmland from conversion to event centers, industrial uses or residential developments.

“The decision from the state Supreme Court will set precedent for how courts apply laws like the GMA to local ordinances. We hope the Supreme Court will uphold the Growth Management Hearings Board decision to protect family farms from sprawl and set a strong precedent for agricultural land protection across the state”
— Tim Trohimovich, Futurewise Director of Planning & Law.

Learn more about the impact of this ordinance on local farmers through our interview with Andrew Ely, owner/operator of Eunomia Farms in the Sammamish Valley.