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Zoning 101

July 24, 2013

The other day, I heard someone say to his friend, “the old Ace Hardware building off Mount Vernon in Dunwoody would be a great place for a brewery.”  Hmmm…I thought….Currently, there isn’t a brewery in Dunwoody or even one in close proximity – although Jekyll Brewing in Alpharetta is scheduled to open in early August this summer (can’t wait!).  Still, maybe the old Ace would be a good spot.  Oh, wait…zoning.

Zoning is one of the first issues a start-up brewery must consider when choosing a site.  The purpose of zoning ordinances is, in part, to separate residential areas from the potential hazards and nuisances associated with industrial areas, e.g., excessive noise and foul odors.  Typically, breweries are allowed only in areas zoned Industrial or Light Industrial.

As described by the Georgia Association of Zoning Administrators (GAZA), zoning is a basic power of the state and its political subdivisions to protect the health, safety, morals, and general welfare (Police Power). Zoning is one tool used by a community to implement a comprehensive plan, i.e., to govern the manner in which a community will grow. Zoning ordinances try to make the development of community facilities and services consistent with the comprehensive plan. In other words, nobody wants an industrial meat-packing plant in the middle of his or her residential neighborhood.

The old Ace Hardware building is located in a commercial district zoned for retail business, not manufacturing.  So, to start a brewery there, the owners would have to seek a variance, or try to get the area rezoned. Either of these options is not for the faint of heart, and it would help to engage someone with experience in preparing a zoning application and presenting the same before the respective zoning board.

Note though that some jurisdictions have started to ease craft brewing zoning restrictions to encourage and attract business in a thriving industry.  Just ask the folks at Three Taverns in Decatur or Blue Tarp in Avondale Estates or Macon Beer Co. in, yep, you guessed it, Macon.  All of these local jurisdictions tweaked their zoning ordinances to facilitate the establishment of these microbreweries. See http://www.11alive.com/news/article/294697/40/Marietta-considers-change-in-law-on-breweries; http://decatur.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/craft-beer-ordinance-on-agenda; http://www.macon.com/2013/02/25/2370875/planned-downtown-macon-brewery.html.

If you have any question regarding zoning for breweries or brewpubs, give me a shout.

Cheers!

From → Beer Law 101, Zoning

2 Comments
  1. Mac Kennon permalink

    Just found this site; really enjoying the info.

    What are the best zoning codes in Atlanta for a microbrewery?

    I have access to FMLS, so I’ve been researching commercial properties in the Atlanta area (particularly Chamblee-Doraville).

    I’ve found the Atlanta zoning code list, but the descriptions aren’t very descriptive.

    Here is a link to the document for reference.
    http://www.atlantaga.gov/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=2173

    Which codes allow for brewing? What did Three Taverns need to tweak to get passed their ordinance?

    Thanks for any input you have.

    • Glad you are enjoying the site. As you probably know, each local jurisdiction has it’s own zoning code, so Atlanta, Chamblee, and Doraville will each have its own code. Atlanta currently requires breweries to be located in industrial zoned areas (light or heavy). There’s an exception for brewpubs. As for Decatur and Three Taverns, I believe Decatur had to create a permitted use category for brewing as well as create a license classification for brewing, as the code previously did not contemplate such manufacturing activity.

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