Support Expressed For Text Amendment On Tasting Rooms

But it may need to undergo a few changes.


Frederick, Md (KM). Testimony was taken on Tuesday night by the Frederick County Council on a text amendment to allow tasting rooms for farmers who operate distilleries, breweries and wineries in agricultural and resource conservation zones. The tasting rooms could be no more than 1500 square feet, and minimum setbacks and maximum height would be the same as required in Natural Resource uses in the districts where it’s proposed. Parking would be provided¬† at a rate of one space per 50 square feet of floor area devoted to customer service, excluding food preparation and storage areas. And these facilities would not be subject to lot frontage requirements. Farmers who operate these facilities would not need to secure a site plan or special exception to open a tasting room under this text amendment.

Tom Mulllinex chairs the Frederick County Agricultural Business Council. “We believe this bill allows these businesses to start up and a place to thrive and lower startup costs,” he said. “This bill helps promote agriculture and offers farmers an opportunity for diversification.”

But some farmers who testified said they wanted to offer amplified music outside when they put on events in their tasting rooms. But the text amendment only allows amplified music on the inside. Tom Barse operates Still Point Farms. “For myself and for many members of the industry who are not here, we would support the bill with the amendments to allow amplified music events that say conclude at 9:00,” he said.

“The industry is saying it needs to be part of the product that they offer. I think that the County Executive is open to that language being looked at that would allow that to happen with conditions,” says Steve Horn, Director of Planning and Permitting. “How that’s crafted is still kind of in the works.”

County Councilman Tony Chmelik says he plans to draft amendments to this measure addressing outside amplified music and how many events these farm beverage operations can hold each year.

The bill was proposed by County Executive Jan Gardner to help the growing farm beverage industry in Frederick County. The county has 12 winery and brewery tasting rooms, and eight more wineries and breweries are looking at adding tasting rooms. The City of Frederick has added three new distillery tasting rooms.

During the public hearing, other farm beverage operators expressed their strong support for the text amendment. “We’re talking 1500 square feet. These are small, small entities which need a kick start,” said Eric Allen from Linganore Winecellars.

“I’m one of these very small start up wineries that is struggling to come into existence, and the contents of this bill for me are perfect,” said Robert Thompson.

The County Council is expected to take up this text amendment again in April.


By Kevin McManus