Plans for a new taproom and microbrewery in downtown Windermere are on track following a conditional-use approval from the Town Council.
Town leaders approved a conditional-use request for Windermere Brewing Company during their Sept. 8 meeting, with Council Member Loren “Andy” Williams abstaining from the vote.
The proposed taproom and microbrewery will be located at 111 W. Fifth Ave. A microbrewery is a “small-scale malt beverage production facility that is self-contained and does not create external noise pollution or foul odors,” according to documents submitted by applicant and Windermere Brewing Company founder Andy McGhee.
The conditional-use approval was required for two reasons, Town Planner Brad Cornelius said. The first was because the proposed use of a microbrewery and taproom is not specifically identified as a permitted or prohibited use in the town’s Land Development Code.
“The code does allow — for those types of uses that aren’t specifically identified — for the town to consider them and allow them as a permitted use after going through a review of that use to make sure that it is consistent with the character of the town and the town’s comprehensive plan,” Cornelius said. “The second part of this approval … is to approve the conditional use to allow the serving for the consumption on premises of alcohol less than 1,000 feet from the First Baptist Church, as well as Tim’s Wine.
“The town’s code related to alcohol businesses or businesses that allow for consumption on premises requires a 1,000-foot separation between churches, schools and other places where alcohol is served for consumption or has approval for that,” Cornelius said.
Cornelius added that Tim’s Wine Market also went through the conditional-use process in 2014 because of its proximity to the church.
Under the terms of conditional use, Windermere Brewing Company must adhere to certain standards. The business cannot violate conditions of approval, receive more than two code-enforcement violations or receive more than two registered police incident reports in a calendar year. If any of the standards are violated, the conditional use can be revoked.
Cornelius added that town staff wanted to ensure during the review process that the proposed project wouldn’t be a major manufacturing facility.
“We didn’t want to have a full-scale, big old brewery in downtown Windermere, so we did look to Orange County to see how they regulated it,” he said. “How Orange County regulates it is as long as they produce less than 15,000 barrels in a calendar year, they’re considered a microbrewery. As the operation plan of Mr. McGhee does show, they’re well under that capacity (at a maximum of 3,570 barrels).”
Town center design guideline standards call for four parking spaces per 1,000 commercial square feet, Cornelius said, so Windermere Brewing Company will require 10 spaces. The microbrewery plans to share nine parking spaces, as well as a sanitation area, with the adjacent marketplace.
“We really want to first and foremost come out and basically show that Windermere Brewing — as a project and as a whole — really comes from two town residents ... basically wanting to do something in the downtown area that is both a point of pride for our town, it’s a community meeting place and it’s a laid-back place for us to all enjoy,” McGhee said.
Council Member Bob McKinley asked if the church was notified of the project. McGhee said they were, and no response was received. Mayor Jim O’Brien added he spoke with a pastor from the church, who said the church had no opposition.
Council Member Bill Martini asked about any brewing odors on behalf of a resident who was concerned about it. McGhee said the main odors that breweries typically get complaints about are the wastewater treatment and production process.
He said the wastewater-treatment odor usually only happens with large-scale breweries, and Windermere Brewing Company will have a holding tank for processed water. Windermere Brewing Company also will be using steam condensers to capture steam from the equipment’s vapor column and re-condense it into water. Additionally, no smoking or vaping will be allowed on premises.
The proposal has garnered mixed responses from residents, but based on public comments the town has recorded thus far, more have been in favor of the microbrewery than not.
Town leaders will hold a public hearing for the proposed new, 2,519-square-foot commercial building during their Oct. 13 meeting.