New OC Brewery Clears Council, Planning Hurdles; Concerns Not Enough To Derail Developer’s Plans

New OC Brewery Clears Council, Planning Hurdles; Concerns Not Enough To Derail Developer’s Plans
New OC Brewery Clears Council, Planning Hurdles; Concerns Not Enough To Derail Developer’s Plans

OCEAN CITY – The proposed Ocean City Brewing Company received two key approvals this week — first came the granting of a conditional use by the Mayor and City Council followed by site plan approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

A few weeks ago, the Ocean City Brewing Company project was brought before the Planning and Zoning Commission to request a conditional use for the operation that is taking over the former Adkins Hardware property on 56th Street.

The commission expressed several concerns, such as obtrusive odors arising from a used grain trailer located outside on the backside of the property as well as the 72 parking spaces on site and only two existing entrance/exit points on Coastal Highway. The commission felt a challenge may arise between parking and deliveries with large trucks only being able to back out onto Coastal Highway to exit instead of being able to turn around on the property.

The commission also voiced concern over the brewery’s impact on the surrounding residential neighborhood of Maresol Condominiums to the southwest of the property and suggested including fencing and landscaping in the site plan to provide a buffer.

The commission voted unanimously to forward a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council to grant Conditional Use for the brewery in the LC-1 District based on the conditions that offensive odors will be controlled by covering the used grain trailer. Additionally, the use and treatment of wastewater is to be in compliance with Ocean City Wastewater and Maryland Department of Environment requirements.

On Monday, the OC Brewing Company’s request for a Conditional Use came before the Mayor and City Council. The elected officials had a list of concerns of their own. Among the concerns were providing air scrubbers on the system to alleviate the odor, moving the grain storage silo inside the building, moving the batch waste container inside until such time as it can be removed, a six-foot privacy fence and trees planted in the buffer between neighboring properties, no outside seating for the restaurant and no canned beer produced in the brewery.

“I have some concerns with the look of that grain storage bin, although I’ve been told not to call it a silo,” said Councilman Joe Mitrecic. “I personally like the smell of beer brewing, but not everybody does.”

Councilmember Margaret Pillas voiced concern about the potential aroma and its impacts on neighboring properties.

“I remember lumber stacked back there, but I don’t remember a smell for several blocks,” said Pillas. “I have a problem with the aroma. If I go to the Best Western and that aroma is wafting up to my balcony, I’m probably not getting used to it, and I’m probably not coming back.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight also expressed concern over the aroma and questioned whether there was a system available to filter, or clean, the air emanating from the brewery. Throughout the discussion, it was brought up at different times how other manufacturing companies clean the air coming from their plants.

“One of my big concerns is the aroma or odor,” said Knight. “Is there a system that can be put on it now before it’s up and running and the complaints start? Also, can’t that grain storage bin be moved inside? I think it could be an eyesore. We welcome this and I think it’s a great project, but we just need some of these issues addressed.”

The 31-foot silo will only be filled once every few weeks and perhaps even longer depending on the frequency of the brewing and the demand for the product, so any dust or noise associated with filling it is expected to be minimal, representatives reported. However, the height of the storage bin in an otherwise fairly residential area raised concerns for the council.

In addition, the on-site storage of the by-product until it can be hauled away after the brewing process also raised concerns. The concerns included the potential odor and even the likelihood seagulls will be attracted to it and everything that entails in terms of impacts on existing businesses, hotels and condos.

Mayor Rick Meehan suggested the developer find a way to move the storage of the by-product inside the facility somehow, along with other equipment expected to be housed outside the building.

“I think they need to find a way to move the storage of the by-product inside because there is plenty of room,” said Meehan. “The same goes for the CO2 system and other equipment. Move that all inside. I think that will alleviate some of the concerns.”

Nonetheless, Meehan urged the council to approve the conditional use request if certain conditions were implemented.

“There’s a lot going on at this property,” he said. “We talk about businesses declining in Ocean City and this is an example of somebody trying to start a viable business. Maybe we need to talk about how it can be done and not how it can’t be done.”

Meehan said the council had before it a request for a conditional use, meaning it had ability to put certain conditions on its approval. If the developer fails to live up to the conditions placed on the approval, the conditional use, by definition, can be taken away.

Councilman Doug Cymek said he had conversations with the developer and was satisfied concerns would be addressed.

“I’ve been talking to the brewery group and I think they truly want to do whatever they have to in order to make everybody happy,” he said.

Pillas couldn’t vote to approve the conditional use without significant changes.

“This is going to be a no-vote for me,” said Pillas. “We’d love for you to come into town, but I think there are just too many impacts on neighboring businesses.”

The council voted 4-2 with members Pillas and Brent Ashley opposed and Councilman Dennis Dare absent to approve the Conditional Use request.

The next day OC Brewing Company returned to the Planning and Zoning Commission with a site plan for approval.

Building Administrator Blaine Smith explained since the applicant appeared before the commission initially it had hired Atlantic Planning, Development and Design to design a formal site plan, which worked all that day to re-design the site plan to address the Mayor and City Council’s stipulations.

“Subsequent to last night’s meeting the applicant has revised the site plan to incorporate the conditions and … it is in compliance,” Smith said.

The revised site plan included air scrubbers, the grain storage silo, and used grain trailer was moved inside. As well as a six-foot vinyl fence with trees and shrubbery will surround the property to the south west to serve as a buffer. The only item left outside is the trash dumpster that serves all uses of the property of the brewery, restaurant and retail.

Smith furthered the applicant has removed parking spaces  that divided the handicap parking in the front and the primary parking along the south side of the property that now allows traffic flow between the two entrance/exit points on Coastal Hwy.

The site plan also included diagrams showing how large trucks can make turns on the property without having to back out onto Coastal Highway. However, the site plan did not include a lighting or signage plan.

“This is certainly an improvement,” Commission Chair Pam Buckley said. “I compliment you on getting the traffic pattern and the parking in a better light for the surrounding area and community safety.”

The commission voted unanimously to pass forward a favorable recommendation to approve the site plan subject to a lighting and signage plan.

“They have done a really good job on working out all the issues we saw at the initial hearing and in the City Council’s review,” commission member Lauren Taylor said.

Legal representation of Maresol Condominiums was present to submit comments into the record prior to the commission’s decision. Following protocol, the commission did not accept comments as the project has already been before the Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning and Zoning Commission for public hearings.

The OC Brewing Company will seat over 200 and the attached gift shop will total about 9,100 square feet and will be located in the front of the building. The brewery will take up about 7,900 square feet and will be located in the back of the property. The brewery will be closed off to the public but a glass window will be in place for the public to view brewing operations.

According to Josh Shores of OC Brewing Company, which plans to open in early May, the company started as a joint collaboration between himself and Master Brewer Mark Fesche. The bar will have over 12 taps of OC Brewing Company’s craft brews ranging from light lagers to high gravity dark beers to appeal to almost every taste bud. The company will be wholesaling kegs throughout the region as well as selling craft beer in growlers.

The restaurant will serve many homemade brewpub favorites from gourmet pizza and flatbreads to smash burgers, signature egg rolls, house sausage and brats and hearty pot pies. A gift shop will also be on site.