Council Rejects Brewery’s Requested Site Amendments

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Brewing Company’s requests to erect a grain silo on premise and have a portable canning/bottling operation indoors was denied this week, as the Mayor and City Council stood by the initial set conditions placed on the establishment.

On June 3, Ocean City Brewing Company (OCBC) attorney Hugh Cropper came before the city’s Planning Commission making the requests in a public hearing. Following the hearing, the commission forwarded a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and City Council that they grant the amendments to create a safer environment for the brewing operation, lessening truck traffic for grain deliveries, the amount of dust, potential spillover and other nuisance factors to the neighborhood and to brand the product by using a small, portable canning/bottling operation located entirely within the interior of the brewery operation.

On Monday evening, Zoning Administrator Blaine Smith submitted Ocean City Police Sgt. Mark Paddack conducted noise readings of the brewery and the compressors that will be involved with the canning/bottling operation. The results were the noise level would be in compliance with the town’s daytime noise regulation, which is 65 decimals, with the results coming in just under that but the reading would not be in compliance with nighttime regulations, and a noise buffer would be required for nighttime operations.

Council Secretary Mary Knight conducted research on the storage of barley, finding concerns over the temperature and aeration of the proposed silo as well as the formation of nitrogen dioxide.

“When you store barley … anything above 80 degrees is a good old party for a lot of bugs. Barley has to typically be stored around 50 degrees. Its humidity can be no more than 13.5 percent … so I started to look at your silo that has a vent. Barley needs oxygen and aeration, and nowhere did it mention there was an aerator … so now you will have a condition that will have no moisture control and no temperature control,” she said. “The other concern that I have that is a serious concern is again it is vented but without lack of aeration and high temperature what happens is you will have a gas called nitrogen dioxide form. It won’t kill you, but it is an ammonia-like smelling gas that can hurt your eyes and nose.”

With all that in mind, Knight stated her original conditions stand.

Councilman Joe Mitrecic pointed out OCBC is currently approved to sell cans and bottles on premise but would have to return to the liquor board to be approved for selling their product off premise.

“He [OCBC owner Josh Shores] can only can as much beer as he can sell out of his store,” Mitrecic said. “I don’t have as much of a problem with the canning/bottling. I still hold steady on the silo. I am just not interested in having a silo in the middle of Ocean City.”

Council President Lloyd Martin agreed, however, he felt the request for the changes came too soon.

“My personal opinion is I would like to see them succeed and be good neighbors,” Martin said. “The conditions we set made sense for them to become good neighbors and this came back to us too fast. We need to make sure they are going to be good neighbors before we move forward with these amendments to the conditions.”

Councilman Dennis Dare disagreed with his colleagues, stating Shores has made a large investment in Ocean City and if he disobeys the conditions he is risking having the permit revoked.

“You have to be careful of what you wish for because there are alternatives that may be a lot worse than this for the neighborhood,” he said.

Dare pointed out the district allows for condominium buildings, such as the brewery’s adjacent neighbor, the Maresol Condominiums.

“If the owner of this property wanted to develop or sell it to a developer, they are not going to put a hardware store in. They are going to put condominiums in that go property line to property line and then all of a sudden you have 50 HVAC compressors lined up on the property line, and a 50-foot structure that shadows your swimming pool and blocks your view,” he said. “There is a lot at risk here and I think the operator needs to be a good neighbor and if he doesn’t we can withdraw the Conditional Use, so that allows me to support the commission.”

Mitrecic did not share the same optimism as Dare.

“I don’t think it is that easy,” he said. “Once you put up a silo of that size and if the council decided it needed to come down, it would turn into a long legal battle to get them to take it down.”

Councilman Doug Cymek suggested allowing the silo but setting the condition to have it enclosed to no avail.

“I wonder if you all might consider an enclosure of the silo so it wouldn’t look like a big galvanized structure that belongs on a farm. It would look like an elevator shaft or a stairwell by being closed in with architectural detail,” he said.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas felt Shores’ testimony was inconsistent in his plans for canning/bottling.

“I am standing true to the neighborhood. I would like to see them get in business and be successful,” she said.

Knight made a motion to reject the commission’s finding of facts, denying the requested amendments to the Conditional Use. The council voted 5-2 to approve the motion with Dare and Cymek opposed.