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Zoning Variances Needed for Micro-Distillery/Brewpub

By Jann Wiswall

The Town of Ellicottville’s Planning Board determined at its Nov. 16 meeting that the owner of the proposed Stillhouse Brewpub and Distillery, William Bursee, must apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for several zoning variances, and must provide additional plans to the Planning Board before it can take any action.

The entire project is complicated for a number of reasons. First, distilleries are not specifically mentioned as permitted on the site’s zoning code by the zoning law, which was last amended in 2009. However, the board felt that, since a brewpub is included in the plan and is permitted, the distillery portion of the project can be designated as an accessory use.

Second, the site of the future brewpub and distillery, which is located on the former site of Aardvark across Rt. 219 from the Tim Horton’s restaurant, currently does not conform to zoning law because its front setback is too close to the highway. But because Bursee’s plan will not make the non-conformity worse, the board does not think a variance will be needed for the front of the building.

Town Planner Carol Horowitz and Town Engineer Mark Alianello both agreed, however, that the buffer yard requirement for landscaping will need a ZBA variance, as will proposed rear yard and side yard setbacks around planned parking areas.

While the planning board cannot act on the proposed project until the ZBA has weighed in, Horowitz and Alianello said the planning board application is currently incomplete and that Bursee will need to provide several additional plans for the board’s eventual approval: a full set of elevation drawings (all four sides of the building) plus ground elevation drawings; drainage and grading plans; plans for lighting, landscaping and signage; and “usable open space” plans. In addition, Bursee must confirm with the building inspector a maximum occupancy number in order for the planning board to determine if the parking plans are adequate.

Bursee said that, for a number of reasons, he needs to get zoning and building permits in place in order to obtain the federal and state permits required for distilleries. In fact, he added, he must actually purchase equipment and have it installed before applying for those permits.

In related business, the planning board is reviewing proposed language for zoning law amendments to “Service Commercial Land Uses” related to micro-distilleries, farm stands, food stalls and related businesses. It expects to approve the language at its December meeting and forward it to the town board for its approval early next year.

The next meeting of the town planning board is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. in the town/village hall.

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