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Kent P&Z moves closer to decision on brewery

KENT — Although not yet ready to make a decision about approval of a multi-pronged application for expanded uses at Kent Falls Brewery, a farm-based brewery at 33 Camps Road, the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) discussed each of the application’s aspects at its regular meeting on Thursday, May 11.

Following lengthy discussion, sufficient progress had been made to lead the P&Z to ask Land Use Administrator Tai Kern to draft a resolution of approval setting forth conditions that would need to be met by the brewery. That resolution will be discussed at the next P&Z meeting on Thursday, June 8, beginning at 7 p.m.

Because a statutory deadline calls for a decision to be made before mid-June, the P&Z will either reach a decision at its June 8 meeting or ask the applicant to request an extension.

Included in the brewery’s application are requests for permission to allow a farm store, an outdoor tasting room, standard pours (more than the 2-ounce tasting sample portions), sale of beer in sealed containers, special events and entertainment.

Each of those elements was discussed, debated and ultimately summarized by P&Z chairman Matt Winter to arrive at the points to be included in the resolution being drafted by Kern. Winter said that the brewery’s application has spanned three months of public hearings.

Resolution points include allowing the farm brewery to produce and sell beer at wholesale prices. The brewery must grow some of its ingredients on site. Having found that the soil and climate are not optimum for a hop crop, the farm currently limits its hop production to one-quarter of an acre. The commercial source of the hops stands within the 50-mile limit required of farms who claim local production.

Turning attention to the serving or tasting room, the regulations do allow tasting to promote on site sales, but the purchased product must be consumed away from the farm. A popular beer transport method uses “growlers” for offsite consumption. A growler is a refillable glass beer container of 32 or 64-ounce capacity. An airtight seal keeps the beer at tap quality.

The P&Z determined that the brewery’s plans meet the definition of a farm store, where the items for sale can be sourced from outside vendors within 50 miles. A farm stand, also permitted as a right of all farms, offers only items grown or produced on the individual farm. Considerable discussion was given to comparing definitions of farm stands, farm stores and farmers’ markets.

“They don’t need an outdoor area and they don’t need food service,” Winter summarized. “It’s a farm,” he added, indicating that the brewery will have a place to sell their products, as well as other people’s products. The brewery could offer a once-a-year special event by obtaining a special permit.

Other concerns raised by P&Z members included traffic impact, although P&Z member Darrell Cherniske pointed out that past traffic studies in such a low-traffic rural setting, usually come back with negligible overall impact.

In other action, the P&Z approved an application from John McPhee for his tourist house at 88 North Main Street, allowing him to remodel the former innkeeper’s quarters to create two additional lodging rooms, increasing the capacity of the house from 7 to 9 guest rooms. The innkeeper now lives across the street, McPhee explained.

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