By Dianne Sudbrock
On Wednesday, Oct. 19th, 2018 the St. Charles County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that two Conditional Use Permits (#18-12 and #18-13) related to constructing a brewhouse on Benne Road in unincorporated St. Charles County be approved. Both recommendations will now be forwarded to the St. Charles County Council, which will take up the issue on Nov. 13th, 2018.
Among the recommended conditions for the main brewhouse, CUP #18-12, were:
• A site plan must be approved and meet all county health and environment regulations.
• All outdoor amplified sound shall end by 8 p.m., all inside amplified sound by 10 p.m., and all events by 11 p.m. (Neighbors had requested all exterior amplified sound end by 6 p.m.)
• The restaurant/beer hall can be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; and 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and shall be closed on Mondays. (Neighbors had requested closing 8 p.m. except for a limited number of special events per year.)
• All parking must occur on the designated parking areas on site (not on grassy areas.)
• A special use permit must be obtained for a commercial entrance off Benne Road.
• A Type 3 buffer (berm with trees) shall be installed along the property line to buffer 2 nearby homes. (Neighbors had requested a 150’ wide buffer.)
• Existing tree lines around the perimeter of the property shall remain and be maintained.
• Trucks cannot be loaded, unloaded or idling between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. (Neighbors had asked for 8 p.m. through 9 a.m.)
• Prior to site plan approval, the applicant shall provide a signed letter from a registered hydrologist / geologist certifying the drilling and use of a water well that cases out the St. Peters Sand Aquifer and utilizes water from the Rubidoux Aquifer system shall not have a detrimental effect on the level, quality, or availability of water to other residents already utilizing the St. Peters Sand Aquifer. If such letter cannot be obtained, then connection to the municipal water supply system will be required.
• Any tours conducted as part of the business operations shall be limited to parcels included in the CUPs. During the discussion, County Councilman Mike Klinghammer (who sits on P&Z as a liaison between P&Z and the County Council) had indicated that there needed to be some language changed to accommodate residents’ desire to keep hayrides/tours at least 150 feet away from their property lines, but nothing specific to hayrides was specified at the time the motion was made and voted upon.
• Seating and interior public spaces of the building such as the restaurant, indoor/outdoor beer hall, gift shop, etc. designed for serving beers, spirits and food shall have an occupancy load of 250 individuals, total.
• All lighting on the property shall follow the International Dark Sky Association guidelines and include “full cut off” fixtures to prevent light pollution and effects on the Broemmelsiek Park astronomy site.
Prior to the meeting, a group of neighbors and the applicant had agreed on a number of conditions, but some of their agreed upon items were not included when the vote was taken. Not included were: 1) some additional restrictions mirroring requirements built into the AT zoning district; 2) an odor and acoustic / noise impact analysis; and 3) no exterior storage of raw materials, waste, equipment or inventory except for the grain bins.
TRAFFIC: There was considerable discussion about a traffic study and who would pay for any required road improvements. County Councilman Klinghammer promised a traffic study would be done prior to site plan approval, but it was not determined who would bear the cost of any road improvements that might be suggested by the study.
VOTE: 7-Yes, 0-No, 1-Abstain. Commissioner Gary Griffin, representative for this part of the county, abstained because two commissioners had been absent at the Sept. 17th meeting; a hard copy of the minutes from the Sept. 17th meeting had not yet been provided to the commission members; and because so much information had been disseminated the day of, or just a few days before, the meeting. Griffin said it is the first time in the 14 years that he did not have a hard copy of the previous month’s minutes. Editor’s note: Minutes from the Sept. 17th P&Z meeting were not approved at the October meeting and will not be posted on the county website until approved.
CUP 18-13 – 4020 Benne Road (south side)
The Conditional Use Permit for the parcel on the south side of Benne Road also passed – 7-Yes, 1-No. Commissioner Kevin Cleary voted no, citing the “UDO definition.” During discussion, it was noted that the definition of a Brewhouse in the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) allowed uses that the neighbors wanted to ban on this particular parcel. Someone suggested a separate definition should be created to better fit the intended use of this property, but no action was taken.
TEMPORARY: Neighbors had asked, at County Councilman Joe Brazil’s suggestion, that the CUP for this side of the road expire 60 days (or perhaps 6 months) after the new Brewhouse was complete, and that the parcel then return back to its current zoning status. An existing 2700 sq. ft. pole building on this property is slated to be used as a test brewery, to host small tasting parties, do quality control, and house temporary office space.
Next door resident, Kendell Schmidt, asked the council to apply logic and common sense. Based on his construction experience and a rule of thumb cost of $400 per sq. ft. for a commercial building (potentially $8M for the proposed 20,000 sq. ft. building) Schmidt said he found it hard to believe space for a test brewery could not be incorporated into the facilities on the north side of the road. He also said it only makes common sense to have quality control in the same building as the production site.
Also, during discussion, Marc Gottfried, Brewmaster for the William K. Busch Brewing Co., said he may also make small special order batches to sell to select customers at 4020 Benne Road facility – that use was not stated in the original CUP application, nor was “quality control”, however, County staff planner Robert Myers said the definition of “Brewhouse” allows for on-site and off-site sale and consumption, so those activities would be allowed.
Schmidt said if the council did not make this CUP temporary, then, he believed “the County has turned its back on the residents and homeowners who have chosen to live here with the belief that the county would protect their interests.”
Neighbors asked for a 30’ buffer of trees along the eastern property line. A 20’ buffer was approved.
The commissioners limited tasting events to no more than 4 per year, not to exceed 20 people, and production of not more than 3000 gallons of beer per calendar year in this building.
Several other conditions were imposed similar to those on CUP #18-12, including the building of a commercial entrance to the property, but again, as in #18-12, there was no mention of incorporating restrictions similar to the AT zoning district to which both parties had agreed.
The meeting adjourned at 11:25 p.m. A video of the meeting is viewable at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cBetobr0N4
Both Conditional Use requests will now move on to the County Council level and be on the agenda for the County Council meeting Tuesday, November 13, 2018. That meeting will be the last opportunity for public comment; and typically speakers at County Council meetings are limited to three alternating pro and con positions per topic, and only three minutes per speaker.
Editorial Comment: This is not a commentary in favor or against this particular project, but rather on how the process has been handled.
I think both sides are to be commended for respectfully meeting and finding common ground on several of the issues surrounding this project. They devoted many hours to working out their differences and presenting them in a clear, professionally written document that explained both points of view.
On October 3rd, County Councilman Joe Brazil asked the neighbors to develop a list of desired conditions. Those lists (one list for each CUP) were sent to P&Z Commissioners on Friday, Oct. 12th. On Tuesday, Oct. 16, Marc Gottfried sent a revised copy of those lists, noting items of disagreement, and explanations for the disagreements.
On Wednesday, Oct. 17th (the day of the meeting), a third version of both documents – which included counterpoint explanations from the neighbors on the items of disagreement – were sent to the commissioners. On CUP #18-12, there were 8 items in agreement and 5 items in disagreement. On CUP #18-13 there were 6 items in agreement, and 5 items in disagreement. Where there was disagreement, both points of view were clearly communicated.
A memorandum from staff was also sent out on Wednesday, Oct 17th (the day of the meeting) which drilled down those 12 pages to a brief list (16 lines of text) indentified as “optional conditions” the commission could consider imposing. There were 6 potential items for CUP #18-12, and 1 item for CUP #18-13.
In this drilled down version, several paragraphs borrowing standards from agriculture or winery related tourism conditional uses, were reduced to 3 sentences/items and identified as “optional conditions”. None of them were discussed or included in the list of conditions passed for either CUP application. Therefore, some of the important safeguards designed to control the size and scope of commercial developments within agricultural areas, were left out.
At the P&Z meeting on Oct. 17th, there was evident confusion at times as to which document was being referenced. Councilman Klinghammer compounded the problem when he took over the discussion of the unresolved issues and started with an item on the last page of the joint document and then jumped around from there.
In addressing the areas of disagreement, some points that were verbally addressed during the public comment period, I felt received fair compromises. In other areas, it was obvious the commissioners had not read, or simply did not give adequate attention to, the neighbors concerns. The petitioner had the opportunity to answer questions and offer additional explanation after the public comment closed, which is common practice. But the neighbors’ concerns, which were so well articulated in the joint document, were not brought up.
Mr. Griffin was exactly on point when he said the commissioners did not have enough time to digest the details before the meeting.
SKEET RANGE: When residents asked that an existing private skeet shooting range on the north side property [CUP #18-12] be expressly prohibited from use as part of the brewhouse business, staff said since it was not listed on the original CUP, it shouldn’t be restricted. Instead, if Mr. Busch wants to use it as part of the business in the future, he can request a new CUP for that purpose. Councilman Mike Klinghammer said he would vote against such a use if it came up before him, but that is certainly not a guarantee that it would never happen.
The purpose of a Conditional Use Permit is to put conditions (aka restrictions) on use. Yet a restriction to ban skeet shooting at a business that sells alcohol was not put in place because the owner might want to ask for that later.
VOTE: When the votes were taken, the joint documents that both parties worked so hard to develop, were essentially ignored, and therefore some of the conditions to which both parties had previously agreed, were omitted!
The obvious effort to move this project along, despite the disorganization and late hour, was a disservice to the people on both sides who had worked so diligently to make the process clear, concise and easy to follow.
There also seems to be a lack of understanding and/or regard of the how strongly the people of this area want to preserve the pristine rural atmosphere in which we live. Even though this property is technically not zoned AT (Agri-tourism) the intent of that zoning should be applied.
I can only hope that a more complete and better organized list of conditions, which includes all the agreed upon protections and restrictions, is approved at the County Council level.