Carnation alliance mobilizes against Remlinger concerts

Remlinger Farms, Seattle Theatre Group and King County respond to several concerns surrounding the upcoming concert series.

While eager concert-goers claim their tickets for several upcoming concerts this summer at Remlinger Farms in Carnation, several concerned citizens have involved King County in their efforts to revoke, suspend or modify the farm’s ability to host the events.

In September 2023, Remlinger’s concerts were determined a nonconforming land use, allowing the venue to host up to 34 live events per year while not exceeding 6,000 guests per event. The events are facilitated by the Seattle Theatre Group. Artists on tap this summer include Daryl Hall and Elvis Costello, Portugal. The Man, and Parliament Funkadelic with George Clinton.

However, a group called the Carnation Community Alliance (CCA) is concerned about the concert venue as well as the impact the related noise and traffic will have on the area.

Led by Carnation residents Simone Oliver, Jules Hughes and Steve Foster, the alliance is described as a local group of citizens interested in facilitating stewardship of the lower Snoqualmie Valley. The group formed in December 2023 over the lack of a public process surrounding the concert venue and the farm’s nonconforming land use, which they believe to be illegal.

“We’re a small rural community fed by two-lane rural roads, and this project is out of balance with the existing use that has occurred at Remlinger for decades now,” wrote Simone Oliver. “No one is arguing that they’ve had picnics and small shows, but this is completely different.”

Remlinger and Seattle Theatre Group issued a joint statement on March 21 regarding the upcoming concert series.

While there was no mention of the CCA or open code enforcement cases for the farm, the statement noted Remlinger’s continued efforts to be “thoughtful and intentional not only about the experience we offer our guests, but also the way we treat our neighbors and the greater community.”

“Remlinger Farms has always worked hard and will continue to work diligently to keep guests safe, whether on a pony ride or a roller coaster ride — and that commitment continues now alongside the expertise of STG,” according to the partnership’s statement. “It’s with the utmost thought and care that our organizations have reviewed and implemented safety measures like law enforcement, medical services, security measures, and fire safety compliance.”

Nonconforming land use

King County Code Resolution 25789, the 1993 zoning code, permitted several land uses including “open-air theatres,” which fit the events held at Remlinger Farms.

Because of this, Jim Chan, director of the King County permitting division, determined Remlinger’s concerts to be a nonconforming land use and permitted them to proceed. The decision made by the county’s permitting office was based on the rules and regulations established by the county when the concerts first started, and is the typical avenue for establishing nonconforming use.

On Feb. 9, the CCA sent a letter to Chan and John Taylor, the King County Department of Local Services director, detailing their opposition to the nonconforming land use and asked for the revocation, suspension or modification of the decision.

“At a minimum, a temporary or conditional use permit that includes full environmental and public review as required by law, should be required so that the impacts can be identified and addressed,” the CCA wrote. “Carnation Farms is currently under review for a temporary use permit for similar concert events. This process is the legal way to permit change of use and allows for full public review.”

The alliance believes the estimated event attendance — 6 to 34 events per year of up to 6,000 attendees each — included in the nonconforming decision is inaccurate, which is grounds for revocation of land use approval by the county, according to King County Code 21A.50.040.

“We can all testify that they have not held public events of up to 6,000 people up to 34 times per year since 1991, and the data they provided in no way confirms this,” the CCA wrote. “There are no events to our knowledge that had 6,000 people in the course of a few hours in the three decades we have lived in the Valley.”

The letter also mentions open code enforcement cases for the unauthorized construction of an amusement ride and the expansion of the concrete stage that will host the concerts, as well as the concerts’ detriment to public safety as grounds for changing the nonconforming land use.

Noise, traffic, emergency access, stormwater pollution, and impacts on water quality, wildlife, and light pollution were also mentioned.

“Per the King County noise code, a decibel limit of 52 is required in the rural residential zone,” the CCA wrote. “Outdoor concerts typically range between 90 and 120, with over 85 being harmful to human hearing.”

Code violations

In his March 21 response to the CCA, Jim Chan of the county’s permitting division denied the alliance’s request that Remlinger’s September 2023 nonconforming land use decision be suspended, modified or revoked, citing a lack of evidence to dispute the accuracy of the farm’s records.

“Remlinger Farms provided records dating back to 1991 documenting that events have been hosted on the site annually, including dates, names and the approximate size of the events,” Chan wrote. “Permitting has not received any evidence to dispute the accuracy of Remlinger Farms’ records.”

Chan confirmed the code violation listed by the CCA “involving the unauthorized expansion of the existing stage and the placement of an amusement ride,” for which a code interpretation case was opened on Dec. 12, 2023.

King County is working through the initial process of voluntary compliance with Remlinger, which is required to remedy the violations. The county is looking into a second code enforcement case opened on Feb. 13 regarding alleged clearing and grading work on the farm.

These code violations are not expected to affect any upcoming Remlinger events, wrote Chan.

An environmental review of the Remlinger Farms’ unapproved expansions will not be conducted until Remlinger either decides to remove the structures or pursues permits to legalize them, according to the county.

“Although we had hoped the decision would be revoked, or at least modified, we understand that this can happen at any time,” Simone Oliver wrote in response to Chan’s letter. “We will continue to provide evidence as to why the expanded scope of use is not legal under the non-conformance code.”

For events with more than 1,000 people in attendance, Remlinger must work with the King County Fire Marshal to assess safety and accessibility for first responders, and may be required to apply for permits for temporary structures such as tents and canopies. Remlinger is also obligated to manage and monitor traffic and noise.

“King County expects Remlinger Farm to continue its historic support of agriculture, environmental stewardship and partnership with the surrounding communities as they have demonstrated in the past,” Chan wrote.

Remlinger has yet to announce a complete summer concert series setlist.