By DAVID BORAKS
Cornelius has had a slew of inquiries recently from developers interested in opening new beer breweries or microbrewery/restaurants in town, and that has prompted officials to propose an update to town planning rules to make those projects easier.
The Cornelius Planning Board on Wednesday unanimously endorsed the proposed changes, which clarify and expand what’s allowed in town. The rules now will go to the Town Board for approval on Sept. 16.
“We’ve had, I am counting, at least six contacts of folks who are interested in microbreweries or brewpubs in Cornelius,” Planning Director Wayne Herron said Thursday.
In one case, a developer asked if a brewery/restaurant would be allowed in downtown Cornelius. Herron had to tell the developer no, but Herron also noted that the town was revising its rules to make it possible.
Until now, Cornelius has allowed beer brewing operations only in industrial areas. The town’s lone existing brewer, Ass Clown Brewery, is in an industrial park off Bailey Road.
But modern breweries can take different forms, including mid-sized microbreweries with a taproom or tasting room, and brew pubs, which combine a small brewing operation with a restaurant.
The proposed zoning changes in Cornelius would add the latter two uses to the planning code.
“If you look at these microbreweries today, they’re not about industrial production,” Herron said. “They need to be in highway areas, and town center type districts. That’s what the public wants. This is really a neat thing. ”
In Asheville and Raleigh and other places, breweries and brewpubs have become tourist attractions, he said.
So Cornelius is joining other cities and towns around the state in revising its rules. Charlotte recently updated its planning ordinance in a similar fashion.
The changes in Cornelius would make it easier for brewers to locate in most districts in town. In one case – brewpubs in neighborhood mixed-use areas – any applications would require a review by the planning and town boards, and a conditional zoning approval.
Among the developers who have talked to the town already, at least one is eyeing sites in the downtown area. Another is looking at the US 21/Statesville road area, and another is considering sites off West Catawba Avenue.
The planning board was unanimous in recommending the rules changes. “They felt that it would be good for the town, that microbrewers are a unique use,” Herron said.
Download the text of the proposed planning amendment (PDF) on the town website.