Wineries, Distilleries, and Breweries
New Zoning Rules

Wineries, Distilleries, and BreweriesFairfax County recently announced that new zoning rules are in place that limit farm wineries, distilleries and breweries from expanding without county oversight in residential areas that allow agriculture.  The action brings the county’s zoning rules in line with changes in state law made this year.

The state code requires wineries, breweries and distilleries on land zoned “residential conservation” to get a special exception from the county if they plan to expand their buildings or erect new ones. This means that local officials will be able to impose development conditions.

State law also bans new farm wineries, breweries or distilleries from setting up shop on a certain type of zoned land (“RC”) unless they have pending applications for alcohol licenses submitted before July 1, 2016.

The move was a reaction to concerns over impacts on surrounding neighborhoods, including traffic and the environment. State lawmakers acted last year following controversy over a proposed brewery in Clifton called Loudmouth.

The special exception requirement also applies to the proposed wineries, breweries, and distilleries that were grandfathered in under state law.

Our zoning officials believe there are up to five such new wineries or breweries that would be allowed to open on land zoned “residential conservation.” These businesses would need to apply for a special exception in order to open, allowing the county to impose development conditions.

The county’s two licensed wineries have plans to open both new wineries and breweries. Paradise Springs is interested in creating a new winery and brewery called Silent Road at its existing site. Similarly, the Winery at Bull Run plans to start a new winery and brewery, Stonebridge, on an adjacent property.

The special exception provisions also apply to public or private events that don’t fall under a winery’s legally allowed tasting, production or sales activities. Farm wineries, distilleries and breweries would need a special exception if they hold such an event, like a wedding or corporate party, with more than 200 people, or up to 300 people if the primary access to the facility is from a major, arterial roadway, at more than 12 events per year.

The new zoning regulations also define farm wineries, distilleries and breweries for the first time, setting a minimum acreage and locations for these businesses. They must be at least 20 acres, and they are allowed on land zoned residential agricultural, residential estate, residential preservation and residential district-1.

As these small-scale alcohol producers are becoming more popular, the county has been encouraging their growth to diversify the economy.

Craft breweries, for example, are big business. They generate more than $1 billion in economic impact in Virginia and employ 9,000 people, according to the Brewers Association.

The county board is anticipated to consider new rules to allow craft breweries, distilleries and wineries to open without zoning approval on many industrial properties. Craft brewers would be distinguished from other kinds of breweries, distilleries and wineries based on defined production limits.

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