In a symbolic vote, Albemarle County supervisors have unanimously come out in opposition to a Champion Brewing Company project in Earlysville.
The resolution, passed Wednesday night, acknowledges that the board has followed state requirements, which govern licenses for farm breweries, but cites various studies and conservation efforts as reasons why a farm brewery would not be ideal for the location on the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. The board plans to send the resolution, along with a personal objection from Supervisor Ann H. Mallek, to a Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control licensing hearing.
Last month, the brewery went public with its plans for a summer camp-themed tasting room and farm brewery in a former church on Earlysville Road. Many neighbors and environmental groups have spoken out against the project, citing concerns about reservoir water quality, traffic, the character of the neighborhood and well water supply.
According to the resolution, the board “strongly supports” those in opposition to the license because the operation of a brewery “in this suburban location of residences and residential neighborhoods would adversely affect real property values and substantially interfere with the usual quietude and tranquility of the surrounding residents by subjecting them to increased noise, traffic, odors and light pollution and generally making the area a less desirable place to live.”
Mallek submitted her objection to the issuance of an ABC license within the state allowed 30-day timeframe. Supervisor Liz Palmer said Mallek would present the resolution at a future ABC licensing hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.
At a recent community meeting, county staff and board members said if an ABC license is ultimately approved, that there was little they could do to stop the brewery from opening, saying many aspects of the proposal are not subject to local control.
The board’s resolution lists a number of clauses about the area, including citing a 2015 Virginia Department of Transportation study about the width of the road and shoulders and information about the reservoir and the Ivy Creek Natural Area.
It states that the board has followed state requirements, but that “the board also recognizes that the proposed use at the property does not appear to be capable of being conducted as a farm.”
“... The county board has serious concerns about the effects the operation of a limited brewery on the property will have on the surrounding residential areas and the Ivy Creek Natural Area and the natural area’s related activities,” the resolution states.
The board also claims that a brewery at that location “would adversely affect real property values and substantially interfere with the usual quietude and tranquility of the surrounding residents by adding traffic to a dangerous and curvy stretch of road.”
It also states that the brewery would “adversely affect and interfere with the normal, orderly conduct of the affairs of the Ivy Creek Natural Area.”
The resolution was added to the board’s final agenda on Monday, meeting an internal deadline, said County Attorney Greg Kampter, but was not updated on the online agenda for the public. The resolution was listed as a “from the board” item on printed agendas available at the meeting.
Supervisor Diantha McKeel questioned if it was OK for the board to approve the resolution, even though the public had not seen it.
“I’m not used to just getting things and approving them like this. I understand there’s a concern ... but I don’t want to be accused of another midnight vote because it’s only [4:55 p.m.],” she said, referring to a vote in 2011 that brought the now-defunct Western Bypass of U.S. 29 back to life.
Kamptner said the board was not taking a position on its own regulations.
“It’s just supporting the objectors under the ABC’s own statutes,” he said.
A handful of people spoke in favor of the resolution during general public comment at Wednesday’s meeting, citing concerns with the curve in the road at that point, the environment and neighborhood character.
The board ultimately voted on the resolution at the end of its meeting.