Zoning amendment allows easier expansion for breweries

The Charlotte City Council passed an amendment Monday that loosens restrictions on where local breweries can expand.

The new rules, three years in the making, shorten the required distance between residential areas and eating, drinking and entertainment establishments from 400 feet to 100 feet. That will allow breweries and other businesses to expand in growing areas like NoDa and Elizabeth.

“We’re thrilled,” said Todd Ford, a part owner of NoDa Brewing Company on North Davidson Street. “Until you hear it, you always assume there’s a possibility there could be a problem.”

Ford, who co-owns the brewery with his wife, said that if the amendment had been in effect when his business was in development, he could have saved about $50,000 on rebuilding the bathrooms and put the taproom in the front of the building instead of the back.

Now, Ford said he and his wife can move forward and expand the brewery. They are looking at three different locations, one of which would have been prohibited by the former zoning regulations.

Ford said the only thing that can limit their expansion now is money. He and his wife haven’t decided if the new location will serve as a second brewery or replace the existing one.

The effort to change zoning regulations began in 2011 when a city advisory group started reviewing how different establishments – including nightclubs, bars and restaurants – were defined.

Though the process has taken some time, Ford said city officials had “obviously done their homework,” and he’s happy with the outcome.

“It’s good for the city; it’s good for us,” Ford said.

Before a unanimous vote, council member David Howard thanked those who have worked on the amendment.

“I think we’ll be a better community for it,” Howard said.

Russell Fergusson, an attorney who represents NoDa Brewing and several other Charlotte breweries, said clarifying zoning regulations is important for Charlotte to continuing growing as a city.

“I think this amendment brings us forward and catches us up,” Fergusson said.

Initially, some neighborhoods opposed changing the regulations for fear of allowing too many nightspots close to their homes. Fergusson said any early opposition to the amendment was likely due to people needing to learn more about the issue.

Ford said he and his wife know their brewery neighbors well and communicate about any problems.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Ford said. “We want them to want us there.”

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