Zoning changes needed to open microbrewery

With craft beers and microbreweries gaining popularity across the country, a Holton couple is planning to open a microbrewery of its own just west of the downtown area. But before that can happen, there may need to be a change in the city’s zoning laws.

That’s what Holton resident Sean Willcott told the Holton City Commission during their regular meeting on Monday while announcing his plan to open a microbrewery. The change Willcott proposed involves amending the city’s regulations on commercial zoning to include the operation of a microbrewery, which he said would produce craft brews but would not operate as a “taproom.”

At present, a “packaging microbrewery” is allowed under industrial zoning, Holton City Manager Bret Bauer said in response to Willcott’s request, but Willcott said he did not want the property that he and wife Jennifer are looking at buying to be zoned for industrial use. Instead, he told commissioners, he wanted to see if zoning regulations could be changed to allow craft beer packaging in a commercial zone.

Assistant City Manager Kerwin McKee said amending the city’s zoning regulations would require an act of the commission, after going through the Holton Planning Commission and a public hearing process that would involve property owners within 200 feet of the proposed microbrewery. McKee told Willcott that he would look further into the process needed to amend zoning regulations and get back with the commission.

According to a letter Willcott presented to the commission, the Willcotts “are currently working on plans to establish a microbrewery that will brew, ferment, package and sell microbrewed beer.” They are working on a contract to purchase a building located at 219 W. Fourth St., with the contract contingent on the ability to operate a microbrewery at that location.

“Previous meetings and discussions with Holton city officials have established that the packing microbrewery business that is currently being modeled does not qualify for current commercial zoning, as defined by Holton zoning regulations,” Willcott said in the letter.

McKee agreed, saying that the Willcotts would need to have a “bottling works” in operation, creating a “spot zoning” issue with an industrial use in the middle of a commercial district. Changing the zoning regulations to allow the microbrewery to operate in a commercial district, Willcott said, would prevent that.

Willcott also told commissioners that he did not plan to sell craft brews on the premises for consumption, but instead to package and sell to beverage distributors or to sell in a retail capacity to consumers who would take the beer elsewhere to drink. There are no plans to operate it as a “taproom,” which would require the issuance of a food license and would have to meet certain regulations for food and beer sales, he added.

Commissioner Dan Brenner said he “liked the idea” of a microbrewery in Holton, although “I know some citizens in this area who may balk at that.” Bauer also invited Willcott to “come in and visit with” city staff to discuss the issue further.

In other business on Monday, commissioners approved an easement between Clinton Dodds and the city on property south of where Banner Road will extend to the west of U.S. Highway 75 and allow for access to property where a new Walmart is planned for construction. Dodds owns cropland located south of the Walmart property and would like to retain access to the land, City Attorney Dennis White said.

The city has offered Dodds $4,750 for the easement, which covers about 0.89 acres of land, and will maintain the easement area, according to a letter White sent Dodds, who has reportedly accepted the offer. The city will also be responsible for property taxes on the easement, commissioners noted.

White said Walmart engineers had approached Dodds about a drainage and grading easement because the road that connects U.S. 75 and the proposed store’s parking lot needed additional room for a 3-to-1 slope on about 40 to 50 feet of the easement area. He added that the engineers plan to take out only a tree line that abuts the Walmart property and straighten a drainage ditch that runs parallel to the planned Banner Road expansion.

The only part of the easement that would extend to Dodds’ property from the highway, White said, would be where the new entrance to the property would be since the city and Walmart will be doing away with the old entrance, about 150 feet south of the entrance to Taco Bell.

Commissioners also:

* Approved minutes from the Nov. 17 commission meeting and budget appropriations made since that meeting.

* Approved Friday, Dec. 26, and Friday, Jan. 2, as city holidays, based on city employee requests to have the day off after Christmas and New Year’s Day, both of which fall on a Thursday this year.

* Set 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 15, for a public hearing on an amendment to the city’s 2014 budget, particularly concerning expenditures in the city’s special park and equipment reserve funds. A public notice on the hearing appears on Page 11A.

* Heard a suggestion from Holton resident Harold Kennedy about setting up a special fund to help city residents who find themselves in “destitute” situations (see related story).

* Heard comments from Brenner and Commissioner Twila White on the “very nice” appearance of Christmas lights along Holton’s Town Square.

* Heard comment from Brenner about Waste Management truck drivers not putting trashcans back in place on the curb after emptying them into garbage trucks.

* Heard comment from Mayor Robert Dieckmann about the need to repair the bath house at the Holton Municipal Swimming Pool. Dieckmann asked if grants were available for the repair, to which Bauer said grants were available but there is “a lot of red tape to go through” since the bath house and the pool were WPA projects.

* Heard comment from Commissioner Erich Campbell about the number of recovered bicycles at the police department. “About a dozen” bicycles are sitting at the Public Safety Building at present, Campbell said.

* Adjourned the meeting at 7:45 p.m. All commissioners were present.

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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