Planners recommend microbrewery addition

A change is brewing in Holton’s zoning regulations for commercial areas just off Holton’s Town Square.

On Monday, the Holton Planning Commission approved a recommendation to add “microbreweries” to the city’s list of allowed uses under C-2 (commercial) zoning, which applies to businesses located adjacent to the Square. The recommendation will go before the Holton City Commission sometime in March for final approval, Assistant City Manager Kerwin McKee said.

The request to add microbreweries — limited-production breweries known for making and selling specialty beers on a smaller scale than major breweries — as an allowed use under C-2 zoning came from Holton resident Sean Willcott, who plans to open such a business here.

Planners approved the recommendation to add microbreweries to C-2 zoning on a motion from Pam Heckerson, seconded by Brett Summers and approved on a 6-1 vote, with only Tim Schlodder voting in opposition; others voting in favor included Tom Brown, Shane Mulroy, Blair Wagoner and Bruce Welliever. The approval was met with applause from an audience of about 20.

Willcott said he is working with Ed and Kathy McKenzie of Holton on purchasing and renovating a building in the 200 block of West Fourth Street for that purpose. He plans to sell craft beers through a distributor, which would buy what he produces and sell it to retail liquor and other stores, which in turn sell the beers to their customers.

Willcott told planners that he is not looking to open a “brewpub,” where customers can purchase and consume his craft beer on-site, mainly because of state regulations that require a certain amount of food sales. However, he said, he may be able to produce and sell bottled beer on a “carry-out” basis at some point, but he wanted to focus on selling through a distributor.

At first, Willcott said, he wants to produce mainly ales, such as wheat ale and two varieties of India Pale Ale, which are popular among craft brew aficionados. He said that getting the planning commission’s blessing on his plans is “the first step in a long process” to opening a microbrewery in Holton.

Microbreweries are limited by law in Kansas to producing no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per year, with one barrel equaling 31 gallons, Willcott told planners. Comparatively speaking, he said, the Blind Tiger restaurant and brewpub in Topeka produces about 1,200 barrels per year, while Tallgrass Brewery in Manhattan is approaching the 15,000-barrel limit and getting ready to expand.

Planners and neighbors of the proposed microbrewery’s site expressed minor concerns over how supplies and materials will be brought to the site, with McKee noting that there were concerns over deliveries, since the site faces Kansas Highway 16 and some deliveries may be made in front of the building. However, he noted that the Kansas Department of Transportation is willing to work with the city and Willcott on the matter.

Holton City Attorney Dennis White lauded Willcott on his efforts to get microbreweries as an allowed use in a C-2 district, although White had originally suggested making it an allowed use in C-2 zones with a special use permit. Instead, Heckerson’s motion sought to make it an allowable use without the need for an additional permit.

“I don’t want to add a sunset clause or anything like that,” Heckerson said. “It’s just going to be an addition to allowable uses, so there’s no stipulation to it.”

McKee later said that C-2 zoning would apply to areas off the Square, which is designated a C-1 zone and where Willcott’s microbrewery “wouldn’t happen.” City regulations do not permit such uses on the Square, across the street from the Jackson County Courthouse, or within 100 feet of a church, school or hospital, it was reported. 

The Holton Recorder

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

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