Microbreweries are one step closer to being a permitted use in Spencer’s downtown area.
Last week, the Spencer City Council voted 5-0 to approve the first filing of an ordinance that would make microbreweries a permitted use in the central business district zone, which encompasses downtown Spencer.
City staff has fielded inquiries from “business owners” about opening a microbrewery in the downtown area, according to a staff report to the Spencer Planning and Zoning Commission.
An effort to make zoning code changes that support downtown retail and restaurant activity was also one of many recommendations included in an economic development strategy plan Toyer Strategic Consulting developed for the city.
Spencer Planning Director Steve Hallgren told the council last week that city staff and the planning and zoning commission are working on defining microbrewery. The matter is on the commission’s agenda when it meets Wednesday.
“Right now, microbreweries, microwineries, microdistilleries are all kind of encompassed and rolled under one definition,” Hallgren said. “We’re looking at whether those need to be broken into separate definitions. We’ve also talked about defining the (production) level of what a microbrewery is actually defined as.”
Currently, a microbrewery could open downtown with a special exception granted by the council.
Ward 5 City Councilman Ron Hanson said he was concerned because the central business district also includes residential areas. His concern would be allowing major brewery operations.
Hallgren said he understands Hanson’s concerns because microbreweries can be hard to define.
“You throw that term around loosely and it could be everything from a small pub that serves drinks crafted there to a manufacturing facility that manufactures large volumes that does shipping and receiving, which is probably what you’re referring to,” Hallgren said to Hanson.
That’s why the planning and zoning commission is looking at definitions of microbreweries, as well as smaller-scale wineries and distilleries.
Hallgren said staff is also looking at how other cities have handled similar situations.
“That’s what staff’s working on,” Hallgren said. “We’ve also referred to definitions from the State of Iowa.”
Hanson said he’d like to hear input from citizens living in that area.
“I will vote for it tonight, but that doesn’t mean that I will vote for it the next couple of (filings),” Hanson said, adding that he wants to see what the planning and zoning commission comes back with regarding definitions.
At its meeting Wednesday, the planning and zoning commission is expected to recommend adding to city code definitions for brewpub, microbrewery, microwinery, microdistillery and allow those in the central business district.
The commission also is expected to review parking and site design standards for those facilities.
Changes to city code recommended by the planning and zoning commission must be approved by the city council.