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Sussex Countian
  • 16 Mile seeks changes to proposed zoning rules for breweries

  • The Georgetown brewery wants a higher production cap on the proposed definition of microbrewery.
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  • THE BACKGROUND
    Georgetown’s town council is considering changes to its municipal zoning code that would allow various brewery-related uses in several existing districts.
    The proposal, authored by Town Manager Gene Dvornick and Town Solicitor Stephani Ballard, was introduced before council on Sept. 26.
    The changes are intended to address the town zoning code’s silence on brewery operations, according to town officials.
    Although breweries are not spelled out as an allowable use in the town’s zoning code, Georgetown has been home to 16 Mile Brewery, one of the state’s fastest growing brewery operations, since 2009.
    Because breweries are not currently an allowable use in the urban business zoning district, owners Brett McCrea and Chad Campbell were required to seek a conditional use permit before opening 16 Mile on a five-acre property at 413 S. Bedford St. in 2009.
    Approval of that permit came with several stipulations that have meant the 16 Mile owners have had to seek permission from council before making changes to their operations, hours and parking arrangements.
    THE ISSUE
    The proposed rule changes would allow three distinct types of brewing operations in separate zoning districts, most based on the size of their annual production.
    Brewpubs, for instance, would be defined as restaurants and bars that also brew beer for consumption on site or for carryout service.
    Microbreweries, meanwhile, would be defined as operations that produce no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per year. 16 Mile, which is upgrading its production capacity to 4,200 barrels per year, would fall under this definition.
    Both brewpubs and microbreweries would be allowed in six zoning districts, including the urban business classification that 16 Mile’s property is currently zoned.
    The proposed zoning changes also would create regional brewery as an allowable use, defined as an establishment that produces more than 15,000 barrels per year. That use, however, would only be allowed in areas zoned for light and limited industry.
    Max Walton, the Newark, Del.-based attorney for 16 Mile, told council last week that the 15,000-barrel-per-year cap on microbreweries could create problems for his clients in the near future.
    “16 Mile’s current building, with some changes to the existing configuration, could accommodate production of somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 barrels per year,” he said. “What we’re worried about is that if the current proposal is approved as adopted, we could be back before you in next two years or so.”
    Walton noted that 16 Mile’s conditional use permit carries no such cap on production. He also said his clients would prefer to avoid having to seek a rezoning.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The 15,000-barrel cap seems arbitrary,” he said. “While we’re not opposed to a cap, it’s a question of how much is appropriate.”
    WHAT’S NEXT
    Council voted unanimously to forward the proposal, as written, to the town’s planning commission for further review.
    Georgetown Mayor Mike Wyatt recommended the owners of 16 Mile raise their concerns there.
    “We intend to be engaged in the planning commission process,” Walton said. “Other than this one objection, we support the proposal and hope to work with the town to establish something reasonable and fair to everyone involved.”
    Georgetown’s planning commission is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposed zoning changes in the coming weeks, before forwarding its recommendations to council for a final vote.
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