May 23, 2019

Brewery expansions planned under new regulations

Observer photo by Jason Starr
Patrons enjoy beer and food at the Burlington Beer Company tasting room earlier this week.

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

Burlington Beer Company founder Joe Lemnah pledged compliance Tuesday with Williston’s newly adopted brewery regulations after previously going beyond regulatory bounds and lobbying successfully for more permissive rules.

The four-year-old brewery off South Brownell Road presented plans Tuesday to the Development Review Board for about 2,000 square feet of restaurant space — including a fenced outdoor deck — comprising 75 seats.

Regulations approved earlier this year by the selectboard expanded the allowable restaurant space in the industrial zone from 1,000 square feet to 2,000, based on a percentage of a brewery’s footprint. But according to a June notice of violations, the brewery had already expanded its restaurant area beyond what was permitted. The brewery was also cited for unpermitted outdoor storage of brewing equipment.

“We are chasing all of this after the fact, and it’s not the first time and it’s not a good dynamic,” Planning and Zoning Director Ken Belliveau told Lemnah during Tuesday’s board meeting.

Lemnah said he was unaware that the tasting room had grown beyond what was permitted.

“We’ve sunk a lot of capital into this site, so of course I’m trying to maximize it,” he said.

In addition to the expanded tasting room, the Burlington Beer Company received approval last year to double the size of its manufacturing operation. It is working with the Department of Public Works on a plan to divert some of the increased industrial wastewater from the expansion away from the wastewater treatment facility in Essex.

“High strength waste and wheat solids will be hauled off site, which will provide an overall reduction in wastewater strength for the brewery,” the application states.

Representing Lemnah, Jeff Goller of Trudell Consulting Engineers said the application is designed to address previous zoning violations. It includes plans for additional parking along Omega Drive, landscaping and a plan to control outdoor trash, recycling and storage.

“(Lemnah) has been pushing the envelope in terms of his approvals, so hopefully this will resolve a lot of issues and we can go forward smoothly,” Belliveau said in an interview Tuesday.

During the meeting, Lemnah assured: “I have full commitment to follow this plan to a T.”

The Development Review Board denied a similar application from the brewery last year, under the old regulations. The denial prompted the planning commission to recommend new regulations.

Williston has two brewery/tasting room operations in its industrial zone. Goodwater Brewery is about a quarter mile away from Burlington Beer Company, on Marshall Avenue. It opened about a year after Burlington Beer Company.

Goodwater also has plans to submit an application with the town to expand its restaurant area under the new regulations.

“We are looking forward to taking advantage of it,” Goodwater owner Marty Bonneau said.

He plans to submit an application with the Development Review Board in the fall.

“The town has done a lot to try to help us out,” he said. “They have changed things a couple of times to try to accommodate us.”

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