OCEAN CITY – The question of when the new Ocean City Brewing Company remains unclear, but support from the Planning and Zoning Commission to add a grain silo and bottling and canning to the business brings it one step closer.
On Tuesday evening, a public hearing was held before the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider amending Ocean City Brewing Company (OCBC) Conditional Use permit in the Local Commercial District (LC-1) to allow bottling and canning to be added to the interior of the brewery section of the premises, as well as erect a silo, approximately 10 feet in diameter and 31 feet in height on the exterior of the premises.
In January, the OCBC initially came before the commission to request a Conditional Use for the operation that is taking over the former Adkins Hardware property on 56th Street. Although there were concerns, the commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to grant a Conditional Use permit for the brewery in the LC-1 district based on the conditions that offensive odors will be controlled by covering the used grain trailer.
The council voted to approve the Conditional Use request based on certain stipulations, including the chiller, grain storage and grain waste container all be contained inside of the building, as well as there is to be no canning or bottling of beer or wine, only keg beer can be produced on the premise.
The next day the OCBC returned to the Planning and Zoning Commission with a site plan for approval that had been revised that day by Atlantic Planning, Development and Design to comply with the council’s stipulations.
The site plan included the grain silo, used grain trailer and chiller being moved inside. Additionally, it included the construction of a six-foot vinyl fence with trees and shrubbery surrounding the property to the south west to serve as a buffer, and the commission concerns over parking and vehicular flow.
In April, OCBC returned to the commission asking for a revision to its existing site plan approval for an eight-foot by 10-foot addition to house a chiller. At that time, the commission referred the matter to the Mayor and City Council because it was uncomfortable changing the stipulations originally set by the legislative body.
On Tuesday, Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith explained the original proposed location for a grain silo on the exterior of the building was on the far west side of the property. The revised site plan shows the grain silo moved more eastward, about a third of the way down the length of the building, on the south side.
The revised site plan is also showing a small device to operate the bottling and canning located at the inside of the overhead door on the west end of the building.
“They have been underway since February and they are near completion,” Smith said.
Josh Shores of OCBC explained the grain silo is a safer and cleaner operation. It prevents traffic of rodents, pests and dust as well as eliminates an employee from hauling 40 to 80 bags of grain by latter or forklift to the top of the tanks.
Shores also explained the bottling and canning would be a contracted service where a mobile six-foot trailer would bring in the equipment, conduct the operation and leave.
“We don’t want to be a manufacturing plant,” Shores said. “Canning and bottling would be the majority of our advertising for our business.”
Currently, OCBC’s liquor license does not allow for cans or bottles to be sold as packaged goods from the retail store, only growlers, but cans and bottles could be sold in the restaurant/bar as well as be distributed. According to Shores, eventually he would want to sell cans and bottles in the retail store but does not have intentions to seek that change until next year.
Maresol Board of Directors President Jim Deitrick spoke in opposition to the amendments.
“For the record, we are not against the OCBC … we want to have peaceful coexistence if that is possible,” he said. “What ultimately we are the most concerned about is living next to something that is going to max out on the capacity and exacerbate our original issues with noise, congestion and everything. We need to ask more questions than what is being asked here. It is about, how much beer? What does it mean? I would expect an operation of this size to have a business plan.”
Attorney John Seipp, representing the Maresol, recognized the council had already made a decision.
“My suggestion to you is let’s get this place open, operate as a restaurant and microbrewery, and maybe they can come back next year to ask if they can do more,” he said. “Let’s get one year of experience under our belt with the conditions set by the Ocean City Council and then they can always come back.”
Richard Holland, co-owner of the Adkins property, spoke in favor of the brewery.
“We are trying to find something that is going to be good for Ocean City. The building looks so much better, inside and out,” he said. “There will be noise factors and trucks with any business that you have. The fact is you have a Conditional Use permit on this operation. If something is wrong, or if something is complained about, you are the hammer and you bring it back to discuss it.”
Shores reported OCBC has already eliminated 80 percent of potential truck traffic by signing with a distributor, adding a silo and by bottling and canning.
“We can go to Baltimore to produce all of our cans and bottles, but then you are going to have tons of trucks because we can still sell our cans and bottles but we don’t want to do that because we want to have a product that is made on premise,” he said. “We don’t plan on being a manufacturer or industrial plant in Ocean City. We do have plans to open a big plant in West Ocean City just like Dogfish but to get started we have to find out what is going to sell; cans, bottles, kegs, or growlers. We need to have access to these entire but at a small pace.”
Commission member Palmer Gillis agreed that while OCBC might not have a business plan itemizing every decimal of the operation, it’s still moving forward.
“We have had an exodus of businesses on this island for the last 10 to 15 years and if you go to a restaurant you are typically going to West Ocean City and so all I have heard from the Planning Commission before was that we need to encourage businesses to locate and operate here other than condominiums,” he said. “These guys have done a good job and I would hope that this commission would give unanimous support for the tank and the bottling and canning operations.”
Commission member Chris Shanahan felt the best advice heard all night was having the business operate for a year.
“We should strike some kind of a balance here because we do need successful commercial operations in Ocean City,” he said. “The silo I liked initially because it gives the building character. Obviously some people consider it an eyesore but I think it is a matter of opinion. I feel that is a necessity.”
Commission member Lauren Taylor disagreed stating a silo is a rural object that does not belong in what has become a residential area.
“They signed an agreement with the Mayor and City Council and have shown no respect of it by agreeing to it to get open but now they are coming back to do it all over, and once you see that kind of a pattern then you wonder … upping the ante here is making it more of an industrial use in a residential area,” she said. “I agree with the Mayor and City Council and I think they made the right decision on the first go around.”
Commission member John Staley reminded the commission it is a Conditional Use permit and it has the ultimate hammer if something were to go wrong.
“I like the silo. I think it is going to be a vast improvement,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, we are going to be the first to hear about it.”
Shanahan made a motion to send a favorable recommendation to the council to approve a one-year Conditional Use permit to allow a grain silo on the exterior of the building and a bottling and canning operation on the interior of the building for a trial basis. The commission approved with a vote of 5-1 with Taylor opposed and Chair Pam Buckley absent.