The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Brittany Allen

Residents: leave microbrewery plan untapped


Brittany Allen

MISMEETING OF MINDS?: Justin Leigh (second from left) and wife Jocelyn (third from left) held a contentious open house last week trying to explain their plans for a Goldendale microbrewery.

Something's a-brewing for Goldendale. After a year and a half of planning, Justin and Jocelyn Leigh have brought their dreams of starting a Belgian farmhouse-style brewery and tasting room to Washington; and they mean business. So did residents with homes in the area who immediately voiced opposition.

Justin Leigh has been home-brewing beer for the past seven years and worked as an assistant brewer at Arcade Brewery in Chicago and eventually gained a brewing certification from Siebel Institute, certifying him in brewery technology.

Justin originally moved to Chicago from New Jersey for law school and did pass the bar and practice law for a while, but then he ultimately decided he wanted to focus more on brewing. He met his wife Jocelyn while in Chicago; she is an opera singer and private lesson tutor native to Vancouver, Wash. He taught her to brew and she gave him the idea to try brewing sour beers, like those of the Belgian farmhouse variety.

From there, the couple decided they wanted to start up their own brewery and later decided to call it Dwinell Country Ales. Dwinell is Jocelyn's great grandmother's family's name and her family moved to Washington in the early 20th century, tying the name to the place the couple hope to create their business and start a family.

The couple's plan for acquiring the ingredients for their beer makes the brewing process rather akin to that of wine; they want to support local agriculture by buying hops, fruit and grain from Washington farms and capturing wild yeasts from local micro-flora to create unique flavors. The agriculture is one thing that made Washington-and Goldendale in particular-so appealing.

Another was the people.

"The most appealing thing was the support that we immediately got," Justin Leigh said. "We called up the county department for Economic Development and right away we had a lot of support and enthusiasm."

In the last few weeks, Goldendale Chamber of Commerce Director Dana Peck, and Richard Foster, Economic Development specialist for Klickitat County, have been involved in trying to help Justin and Jocelyn Leigh find a place and the proper resources to move to Goldendale; not only for the good of the potential business but for the good of the local economy. Peck believes a microbrewery could really help attract young people working at Insitu in Bingen who are looking to start a family and might not be able to afford the property prices of the west end of the county.

"From the Chamber's point of view [...] something like a microbrewery is very much in keeping with the image that we're trying to evolve Goldendale into," Peck says. "One of the things that we view as kind of the low hanging fruit for helping the community advance is getting some of these people that are working down at Insitu now down in Bingen who are paying $1400-$1500 rent because that's Portland down there. As these people get maybe a little older and want to raise a family, have a house, maybe have some property, well it's sure not going to be in the west end of Klickitat County anymore. We're trying to create an image here that this is a good place to look. When we talked to Insitu management, one of the first things that comes up is, 'Do you have a microbrewery,' because they've got Everybody's, they've got the whole Hood River, Solstice Pizza. So when these guys dropped in our lap I was like, 'Boy, let me check one of the boxes.'"

Last Thursday, Sept. 1, the couple hosted an open house on a piece of property out on Burlington Loop Drive, which they had been looking to purchase and integrate their microbrewery into.

Though some citizens at the open house extoled the virtues of the small business coming to the area, current residents and would-be neighbors of Burlington Loop Drive had other ideas.

Resident Terry Thompson was very adamant about the residents' rights to voice their opinions and made an appearance at the open house.

"We have a side and we want to be heard," Thompson said. "If they come out here, they're going to set a precedent, and what is to keep other things from coming out here. [...] We all feel like we're getting pushed around. Not just us, but our government-our local government-aren't (sic) listening to people, what they really want."

Goldendale resident and retired teacher, Brian Wanless, showed up to support the Leighs, saying:

"If we have an enterprising couple, we should embrace them," and that "We have a new business coming into town and I think any new business has got to be good for Goldendale."

But residents weren't as keen and the biggest issues they voiced were about water use and zoning; the general tone was that the Leighs had a great idea, but it should be actualized elsewhere. Many, in fact, offered up ideas of other places where the young couple could look to open up shop.

"I think there's (sic) other places," Clair Christensen, Burlington Loop resident, said. "As far as you wanting to live here, raise a family: open arms."

Several residents cited water use as an issue because they perceived that the operation of the brewery, tasting room, and house would cause a draw on the aquifers and wells which provide water for the homes on Burlington Loop. The Leighs tried to dissuade this during the open house, providing packets of information about projected use and production and stating that their draw on the water supply would average far below that allowed by the state and even below the average household of four.

Another issue one resident raised was that of general disturbance. As someone who has lived in the subdivision since its inception, Thompson can remember a time before the power plant was even built and she and her husband, David Thompson, had moved there because of its distance from the buzz of the big city and because they wanted to "see the stars."

"I'm not against a brewery; I think it's kind of a neat idea. In the proper place," Thompson said. "We all moved here knowing-thinking-that it would be a quiet neighborhood. And no business. I don't know about the rest of them; I read our covenants word-for-word and agreed with them. Our covenants were set up to protect us from business, and noise, and commotion. [...] There are places for them to have a business without coming into our little neighborhood. That's what bothers me."

Besides the general concerns people have pertaining to the brewery's possible effect on their quality of life, the community of Burlington Loop Drive do in fact have a covenant which prohibits 'commercial enterprise' from being conducted within the confines of the Waterland Acres subdivision. Section 26 of their Codes, Covenants, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) states that "No yard or rummage sale or other commercial enterprise shall be conducted on any lot or common area."

So, even though the county was willing to accommodate them with a variance and conditional use permit to allow them to run a commercial business in a residential zone, because of the restriction of the CC&Rs in place, the Leighs have said they will no longer be pursuing residence at that specific location. They have said that they especially wouldn't want to create negative relationships with their would-be neighbors.

"It's unfortunate that none of the neighbors that were part of this development were willing to compromise with us, because we were willing to come to a creative solution so that we could exist in harmony. It seemed like they had their minds made up and I respect that. [...] I want to be here and I want them to feel like, if we're going to be somewhere else that they'll come and have a beer; and I think a lot of them will," Justin Leigh said. "We're confident that if this doesn't work out and we were to go somewhere else that we do have other community members supporting us."

The Leighs are set to return to the state in a few weeks-this time to stay-and still hope to make a home in the area where they can live and brew amidst the scenery of Klickitat County.

"Outside of the actual majority of the twenty property owners, everyone else we've met in town is so excited. We want to be in Goldendale at the end of the day; we want to be here," Justin Leigh said. "We'd love to be a part of helping Goldendale get on the map in terms of craft beer, but also just to help the growth economically of the town."

"Everything seems like it's starting to happen now," Jocelyn Leigh said. "It seems like the perfect time and we want to help do that."


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