Planning Commission Weighs Rules for Expanding Loudoun’s Craft Beverage Industry

Loudoun planning commissioners are following up on the county’s authorization of farm breweries by developing rules to allow craft beverage operations elsewhere in Loudoun.

County staff members are drafting new zoning rules to smooth the path for opening craft beverage manufacturing businesses in non-agricultural, non-residential areas.

The zoning amendments also tackle the thorny problem of defining a craft beverage. In its most recent draft, it defines craft beverage manufacturing as a small-scale brewery manufacturing of no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per year or a small-scale distillery producing no more than 36,000 gallons of distilled spirits per year.

The rules would also limit tasting rooms to less than half of the business’s total floor area, up to a maximum of 5,000 square feet, and limit the type of food preparation that can be done as a craft beverage manufacturer.

Former commission chairman Alfred P. Van Huyck spoke during the panel’s March 23 public hearing, cautioning the commission about allowing craft beverage manufacturing in the county’s rural commercial districts.

“We set these zones up back in my day because we wanted to protect the existing commercial and the old towns, old Ashburn and old Arcola, and all the towns in the west,” Van Huyck said. The RC zone, he said, is meant to keep new businesses compatible with the character of existing neighborhoods. He advised commissioners to require public comment before allowing individual craft breweries and distilleries in that zoning district.

Concerns about the RC district has come up before. Some supervisors expressed consternation at what uses are allowed under that zoning during a debate over options to preserve the old Arcola Elementary School. [Read more about that here.]

Planner Mark Depo pointed out that the ordinance requires craft beverage manufacturers to be served by public water and sewer—a condition that excludes most of the land zoned RC in the western part of the county.

Planning commissioners will continue work on the new ordinances at a future work session.

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