County Executive Proposes Easier Process For Farm Craft Beverage Industry

They will be allowed to open small tasting rooms without going through the site plan process.

 

Frederick, Md (KM). It’s one of the fastest growing businesses in Frederick County, and County Executive Jan Gardner wants to help accommodate the farm craft beverage industry. During her public information briefing on Thursday, she proposed a zoning text amendment which would make it easier for these operators to open small tasting rooms so customers could sample their products. “And they would be able to get a zoning certificate, and not have to go through the site plan process, and not have to comply with the road frontage requirements. So it will be a little bit quicker and easier,” says Gardner.

She says the tasting rooms could be no more than 1500 square feet. “Only, if something’s larger than 1500-square feet would they have to go through the full site plan review. So I think that is an important way to facilitate this by looking at the size,” she says. “Now, there may be a debate about whether 1500-square feet is the right size or not. But that’s what we’ve ¬†chosen to introduce at this point.”

The amendment would also cover farm-based distilleries. “We know they’re beginning to pop up. There’s three of them in the city of Frederick, and we want to make allowance to allow them in the county as well,” Gardner says.

The zoning text amendment would require the farmer to provide parking for customers, and any amplified music would have to be played indoors.

Gardner said several property owners outside of Woodsboro had approached the county about opening up tasting rooms, which she says would have required they meet road frontage requirements and acquire several additional acres. One property owner, she said, was considering asking to be annexed into a municipality in order to meet the current regulations.

There are currently 12 farm based tasting rooms in Frederick County offering beer and wine, and eight wineries and  breweries are exploring the idea, county officials say.

The zoning text amendment is supported by the Frederick County Agri-Business Council. “We believe this bill will allow farmers to diversify their operations and to make things less complicated if they want to get into this type of business, and less overhead and less hassle,” said Tom Mullineaux, the chairman of the Agri-Business Council.

Also supporting the amendment was Bob Black, the owner of Catoctin Mountain Orchards. “Everybody loves seeing the farms. But the farms have to be viable. They have to be profitable,” he said. “I appreciate it because there may be other things we want to venture into also.”

 

By Kevin McManus