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New zoning allows more distilleries, breweries, barrel warehouses in county

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By Andrew Henderson

After a tie-breaking vote, the Oldham County Fiscal Court gave the green light for distilleries, breweries and barrel warehouses in the county.

The fiscal court approved updated changes to the county’s comprehensive zoning ordinance, which included new regulations for distilleries, breweries and barrel warehouses, during their Aug. 6 meeting.

“If we don’t pass something like this then we’ve reduced our opportunity,” Magistrate Chris Haunz, who voted in favor of the ordinance said. “And that’s okay, but just remember you’re limiting your scope of what we can put into Oldham County.”

While the court ultimately agreed to expand such opportunities, it only came about because Judge-Executive David Voegele voted yes and broke the tie between magistrates.

In addition to the distillery ordinance, the fiscal court also approved a new zoning classification: Agricultural Business District AG-2.

The intent of AG-2 is to “provide areas for agricultural development to allow the means of earning supplemental income that can help preserve and sustain local farms and contribute to the economic base in rural areas of Oldham County.”

Under AG-2, distilleries, breweries, craft distilleries and barrel warehouses are classified as permitted use.

The vote to create the new zoning classification also had to be broken by Voegele. All the magistrates voted the same way for AG-2 as they did the distillery ordinance.  

The new zoning ordinances, distilleries and AG-2 being just two of several, will go to La Grange, Crestwood and Pewee Valley next for a vote.

By and large, the magistrates didn’t have any qualms with the ordinance as it related to distilleries, breweries, brewpubs and the like. However, disagreements arose about barrel warehouses.

A barrel warehouse, as defined by the American Planning Association and adopted by the county, is a warehouse for the “storage of distilled spirits for human consumption.”

If a warehouse is in AG-2, at least 25 percent of the property must be dedicated for agricultural uses or receive a conservation easement, have a maximum building height of 60 feet and all structures have a setback of no less than 500 feet.

These warehouses often vary in size and capacity of the number of barrels they can hold. According to a Planning and Development presentation shown at the meeting, the total area needed for a single barrel warehouse is estimated to be 30.3 acres.

“I’ve never seen a pretty barrel warehouse…to put this very simply: bring on the breweries, bring on the brewpubs, leave the barrel warehouses out of Oldham County,” Magistrate Steve Greenwell said.

Opposition from the magistrates to barrel warehouses was varied.

Magistrates Wayne Theiss and Bob Dye both had concerns about the proximity of the warehouses to residential areas because of possible environmental impacts.

According to an Indiana State Department of Health fact sheet, the Baudoinia compniacensis fungus, known as “whiskey fungus,” can often plague barrel warehouses and surrounding areas. There are no reported health risks from exposure to the fungus; however, little research has been done to determine its effects on soil and water. 

Warehouses located in I-1 or I-2 industrial districts that are adjacent to a residentially used area must have a setback of 500 feet along the property line that abuts the residential space.

Magistrate Stephanie Hawkins didn’t think the warehouses by themselves would bring significant economic value to the county. She said while warehouses wouldn’t bring things like traffic congestion, it’s not going to bring much in terms of tourism or employment either.

“Somebody could buy 32 acres and store the least desirable part of the operation inside a 60-feet tall warehouse in the middle of an ag field,” Hawkins said. “There’s no guarantee anything else would come alongside it to boost tourism or increase positive visibility in Oldham County.”

As debate continued, Haunz proposed the idea of amending the ordinance to where if a potential company or individual wanted to build a barrel warehouse in the county then they’d be required to bring something else, such as a distillery, along with them.

County Attorney John Carter said to make a substantial change such as that to the ordinance during its second reading would require the fiscal court to hold a first reading again, potentially putting the issue off for another month or more.

Oldham County Chamber and Economic Development President David Bizianes spoke in favor of the distillery ordinance saying it would boost tourism in the county. He said the county would be taking a step in the right direction by passing the ordinance.

Greg King, vice-chairman of the Study Review Committee, which is part of the Planning Commission, also spoke in favor of the ordinance. He said it would give the county a playbook to use for people who are interested in bringing distilleries, warehouses and breweries into the county.

“We can say ‘here are the rules we play by in Oldham County.’ We don’t have that right now,” King said.

There weren’t any members of the public who came to speak in opposition of the ordinance.

Magistrates Brent Likins, Chris Haunz, Albert Harrison and Bob Dye voted in favor of the distillery ordinance and AG-2 zoning.

Magistrates Wayne Theiss, Stephanie Hawkins, Steve Greenwell and Michael Logsdon voted against the distillery ordinance and AG-2 zoning.

Approved changes to the county's zoning ordinance can be viewed online here: http://www.oldhamcountyky.gov/zoning-ordinance-updates-2019.

The Oldham County Fiscal Court will have their next meeting Aug. 20 at 2 p.m.