(Jan. 17, 2014) The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional use application last week for the proposed OC Brewing Company on 56th Street – but postponed giving site plan approval amidst concerns over how the building’s multiple uses would be accessed.
“Why do we want to create a situation that’s going to be a problem?” queried Commission Chair Pam Buckley. “I don’t think any of us are very comfortable on approving this site plan tonight.”
The prospective brewery is slated to occupy the former Adkins lumber yard on the southwest corner of Coastal Highway and 56th Street – a cavernous warehouse, that in recent years, has housed only a summer t-shirt shop in its front portion.
The brewing company will not be doing any major exterior modifications to the space, which its owners are leasing, but will be doing interior renovations and constructing new walls to reconfigure the space for the new use.
The rear portion of the building will be the brewery itself, while the front space will house a bar and restaurant as well as a retail area for t-shirts and memorabilia.
Under city code, brewing is a “conditional use” allowed only with the express approval of the P&Z Commission as well as the Mayor and Council, who must establish that the use is no more adverse in a given location than it would be elsewhere given the nature of the neighborhood.
“To most people, the manufacturing of beer is going to be a less intensive use than a lumber yard with tractors and trucks that was, in its heyday, quite active,” said the brewery’s attorney, Hugh Cropper.
Cropper had previously secured a waiver from the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals for the building’s parking. Although it does not have enough spaces for all three uses under city code, the code stipulation for manufacturing requires 24 spaces for the brewing area alone, which is unnecessary given the type of manufacturing being done.
At most, the brewery itself will only have five employees present at a time, said the company’s brew master, Mark Fesche.
However, the commission’s concerns were less with the volume of parking and more with the layout of it. The few parking spots at the building’s face will be handicapped spaces, with the majority of parking being two rows with a single aisle on the south side of the building.
This access leads westward from Coastal Highway to the southwest corner of the building where the original lumber company overhead door will be used to load materials for the brewery. Double doors midway along the building’s south side will be used to bring supplies into the restaurant and bar.
“If this place is as busy as it potentially could be, you’re going to be packed for lunch and your trucks are going to have nowhere to go,” observed Commissioner Peck Miller. “All your deliveries and pickups are going to be coming through that one double row of parking.”
Miller and Commissioner Palmer Gillis suggested that a driveway be built looping behind the building out onto the west end of 56th Street, allowing trucks to drive through instead of having to stop on Coastal Highway to back in or out of the aisle.
However, Cropper noted, the structure is built on an elevated slab that drops off into a marshy area between the building and the adjacent Maresol Condominiums to the west. It was suggested by the commission that a few feet of the rear portion of the building be removed to make way.
“You’re going to have to massively raise the grade back there,” Cropper said. “Even if you tear off the back of the building, it’s not like you’re going to get a tractor-trailer in there.”
Many places in the resort have less-than-ideal access for food delivery trucks, Cropper noted. The only difference with the brewery was the additional delivery of grain, which would be stored in a silo on the west end of the parking lot, 10 feet in diameter and 31 feet tall.
This will hold enough grain for ten 1,000-gallon batches of beer, Fesche said, with the brewery planning to make one to two batches per week. Even assuming unlimited demand, the size of the facility could only accommodate four batches per week.
“So even running at a peak you’re only looking at delivery once every two and a half weeks,” Buckley said.
Some of the commission was more forgiving in terms of how far the brewery should be required to go on contingencies.
“They can’t control when the food truck comes in, but they can control when the beer goes out, which I think is sufficient,” said Commissioner Joel Brous. “I think we’re looking at something that’s going to be a problem one percent of the time.”
“And if there is a jam-up, the impact only hurts [the brewery],” Cropper contended.
Others, however, submitted that the relative difficulty and expense of improving the delivery situation should not factor in to the board’s desire to better the project.
“If you think it’s expensive now, you’re going to wish you had access to the back of the building later on,” Buckley said.
Also of concern, but seemingly less so, was the potential for odor and refuse problems resulting from the brewing and the disposal of the fermented grains.
“During the actual brewing there are stacks that vent from the kettle out to the roof,” Fesche said. “There is some smell associated with brewing, but it’s no more offensive than what you’d get from a bakery. I would say one day a week, for four or five hours, there will be some odor.”
Further, Fesche said, the solids remaining after the brew process will be disposed of the same day, but will be placed in an open trailer
“We would have a pig or chicken farmer come take those away on the same day that we brew to feed to his livestock,” Fesche said.
“Whether it smells or not, I think it just needs to be covered,” Buckley said. “What’s defined as offensive is going to be what the people living near you find offensive.”
City Zoning Administrator R. Blaine Smith also suggested that any approval come with the condition that the city’s wastewater treatment plant is able to adequately handle the load form the brewery. Each 1,000 gallons of beer, Fesche said, will produce 7,000 gallons of wastewater.
This water will be filtered through two sediment tanks to remove any remaining solids from the grain, but Smith said the chemistry of the post-fermentation runoff could place an undue burden on the city’s treatment system.
“I would say it needs to be part of the recommendation that city wastewater will be able to handle that effluent with that level of treatment,” Smith said.
With the conditions regarding odor and wastewater attached, the commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation for the use to the Mayor and Council.
However, the commission requested that the specific layout for the site be brought back, assuming the use was given a favorable vote by council, to address logistical issues such as parking and delivery.
“The site plan needs to be a whole site plan as if it was a new project,” said Commissioner Lauren Taylor. “It’s a whole new use. You’re rehabbing an old building, but it doesn’t mean you get a pass.”
Cropper said he still disagreed with the commission that the project should be treated as a whole new facility because of the change in use.
“From a planning perspective, it’s hard to encourage infill if you’re going to require modifications so extensive that they might as well build a new structure outside of town,” Cropper said after the meeting.