Planning board recommends zone change approval for brewery

— The village planning board has recommended that Empire Brewing Company’s application for a zone change on its Route 13 property from residential to light industrial/agricultural use be approved with conditions by the village board of trustees. If the trustees accept the recommendation and vote for approval, the brewery project — after more than two years of work — will move forward rather than be stopped in its tracks.

The planning board’s positive recommendation came after more than four hours of discussion during two separate meetings last week, as the board members disagreed over, discussed and clarified multiple conditions for zone change approval they attached to their official recommendation.

“Our role tonight is to offer a non-binding recommendation to the village board,” said planning board Chair Rich Huftalen at the board’s second meeting of last week on May 16. “This is important because it sets a baseline from which the village board will begin its deliberations [on the zone change decision].”

The planning board previously was tasked by the board of trustees with submitting a recommendation based on their information and hearings as to whether or not the village board should approve the zone change request. Empire’s 22-acre lot on Route 13 is currently zoned residential, and the company petitioned the village for a zone change to a light industrial/agricultural/retail business/restaurant use.

After months of public hearings on Empire’s zone change application and reams of public comments and Empire submissions, the planning board officially closed its public hearing on the issue last Monday, May 13, after two final hours of public comment. The board agreed that night to give a positive recommendation, but delayed a final vote due to the lateness of the hour — they met for four hours, beginning at 7:30 p.m. — and board members’ desire to return to finalization of the conditions with fresh minds and an attorney-written draft with specific wording.

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