Fairfax County’s Planning Commission recommended approval of a zoning ordinance that will uncork the county’s ability to open breweries for craft beer brewing and tasting.
“Other jurisdictions have had positive experience with breweries and similar uses,” said at-large Planning Commissioner James Hart, when the Planning Commission recommended approval of the zoning ordinance on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017.
“I believe there is a consensus that this is a worthwhile amendment and will help facilitate high quality economic development in Fairfax County. Additional industrial use of this character helps relieve the tax burden on homeowners, which is a particularly important policy consideration in years of tight budgets,” said Hart.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold its public hearing on Feb. 28, 2017.
“If all things fall into place and the Board approves this, I’ll look forward to this facility being located at the Lorton penitentiary,” said Planning Commissioner Chair Peter Murphy. “It gives the facility that is already there, arts and crafts and all that, a great shot in the arm for everybody in the county.”
THE COUNTY measured the perfect mix for its new proposed zoning ordinance amendment on craft beverage production establishments, debating such issues as whether 15,000 or 20,000 barrels of beer can be brewed on site, or whether on-site tasting rooms can be included to production activities or whether “production activities shall be the accessory to the onsite tasting room.”
“I have concluded, based on the record before us, that the higher number for barrels of beer will be acceptable and will facilitate greater flexibility for the use. I believe the overall impacts of a brewery producing 15,000 barrels will be essentially equivalent to a brewery producing 20,000 barrels,” said Hart.
At the public hearing on the zoning ordinance earlier in January, Scott Adams, of Maguire Woods, told the commission that he has a client interested in potentially expanding and operating a craft-brew pub and tasting room out of former cell blocks or buildings of the Lorton Prison.
Lorton Prison was rezoned so the reformatory portion (buildings, dormitories) can be used for the development of 352-364 dwelling units.
The former penitentiary portion, 15.99 acres, was rezoned to use up to 110,000 square feet for new and adaptive reuse development, according to Planning Commission documents.
“The penitentiary portion includes 15 structures including cell blocks, towers and a dining hall. Most of the structures are proposed to remain on-site and to be adaptively reused,” according to the documents.
“Despite the relatively low number of existing breweries within the county, staff has received inquiries from small-scale breweries considering locations within the county,” said Andrew Hashour of the Department of Planning and Zoning, who prepared the report for the commission’s public hearing on Jan. 12.
BECAUSE OF INCREASED INTEREST from businesses seeking opportunities in Fairfax County, the Board of Supervisors directed planning staff to research and prepare the zoning amendment.
“To the extent we can promote, through narrowly tailored zoning ordinance amendments, a taxpaying industrial employer, such as a brewery, to invest in a suitable facility like an old prison building or other appropriate sites, in appropriate zoning districts with appropriate limitations, it is a win-win situation,” said Hart.