Changes made to accommodate proposed distillery
Published 8:22 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Minor modifications to Washington’s zoning regulations should make it easier for a proposal to build a micro-distillery downtown.
During its meeting Monday, the City Council unanimously made those changes, which were needed to clarify a previous modification to zoning regulations regarding micro-distilleries, distilleries, brew pubs and the like. At its Nov. 6 meeting, the council modified the city’s zoning regulations to allow a micro-distillery in the former Bank of America building at the intersection of West Main and North Respess streets.
The amended regulations prohibited a micro-distillery within 200 feet of a church. At the Nov. 6 meeting, Councilman Doug Mercer, who voted against amending the regulations, noted there is a church in the former Edward Ray Edwards insurance office between Respess Street and Union Alley and behind the former Bank of America building. He wondered if the church is closer than 200 feet from that building. Mercer said if the church were closer than 200 feet to the building, those council members supporting the micro-distillery project would have to remove that distance prohibition or lessen it for the project to proceed. That would require another amendment of the zoning regulations, he said.
Subsequently, city staff, including City Manager Bobby Roberson and City Attorney Franz Holscher, developed proposed changes for the Planning Board to review at its Nov. 28 meeting. After its review, the board recommended the council make the changes to the zoning rules.
“Anytime you write an ordinance or text amendment, you want to make sure you right it clear enough that everyone reads the same thing. That did not happen with this one. I should have made it a little clearer,” said John Rodman, the city’s director of community and cultural resources, about the changes made at the Nov. 6 meeting. Rodman said the changes made Monday clear up gray areas and clarify items the changes made Nov. 6 did not address.
“One of the biggest questions that you had was the distance requirement from a church, day care or things such as that. … What we did was change our distance from 200 feet to 50 feet,” Rodman said.
The city plans to use the up to $200,000 in state grant funding to assist The Hackney Distillery LLC (Nick and Suzanne Sanders) in rehabilitating the former bank building, into a distillery, destination restaurant and boutique hotel.
Nick Sanders, who recently moved from London to Washington with his wife, Suzanne, told the council that growth of the distillery and micro-distillery industry is a “global trend.” Sanders said he is ready to commit $775,000 in addition to grant funding to rehabilitate the former bank building. He also said The Hackney Distillery LLC would provide any matching funds the grant agreement would require.