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The Shelbyville City Council approved on first reading Thursday a text amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow distilleries on property zoned Agriculture but not without a lengthy discussion.
The second reading of the ordinance will be at the council’s next meeting on June 26. The June 19 meeting has been cancelled due to scheduling conflicts.
The proposed changes were originally set to allow distilleries in areas zoned Limited Interchange (X-1), Commercial (C-4), and Agricultural (A) as long as the property had a minimum of five acres.
The council decided to remove the X-1 and C-4 zones for more study, but proceeded with the discussion on agricultural land, focusing mainly on raising the minimum lot size.
Eventually settling with a 4-2 vote on Frank Page’s original recommendation of 25-acre minimum lot sizes for distilleries, fellow council member Donna Eaton firmly stood her ground looking for larger lots. Even though an increase to 40 acres, her preference, would eliminate just one property.
Mayor Tom Hardesty warned the members of cutting too many potential distilleries out of the city.
“I’d be careful about going too high or you’re going to possibly lose an opportunity here. We’ve already taken C-4 out and X-1 out and it’s hard to find an acreage tract of twenty-five acres or more inside the city limits,” Hardesty said. “Twenty-five [acres] is reasonable to me, but I wouldn’t go much higher than that.”
Eaton wasn’t alone in her desire to increase the minimum acreage, however.
Council member Bobby Andriot expressed his fear of an overrun of distilleries in the city.
“If we do not set a higher acreage on this, there is quite a few properties in the city limits that are agricultural that are small acreages. Would that open the door for a lot of small [distilleries] to come in,” he asked. “I don’t want Shelbyville to become the liquor capital of the world.”
Hardesty assured Andriot that by increasing the acreage requirement to 25, a lot of properties would be taken off the list of potential distillery properties.
Andriot then read from the Triple S Planning Commission’s staff report. “The staff does not recommend permitting the production and storage of distilled spirits in the agricultural zoning district as presented by the Shelbyville City Council,” he noted. “I just think we need to be awfully cautious as we proceed forward with these things.”
Hardesty assured Andriot that the commission had made recommendations to the board, not stipulations, and it was the reason they had removed the C-4 and X-1 from the regulations.
“One of the reasons we took C-4 and X-1 out of the ordinance is so that…it’ll give us time to work with zoning…and make more regulations for it,” Hardesty said.
The debate between 25 or 40 acres surprisingly came down to one property.
“I have a list, and there’s just a handful that are twenty-five acres or more,” council member Shane Suttor said. “If you make it forty, [instead of twenty-five] you are eliminating one property.”
Council member Mike Zoeller noted that the lot size would not determine how the company uses the space.
“We all have the understanding that they are going to put that distillery right in the middle of that 100 acres. They could build within a couple hundred feet of someone else’s boundary line,” he said.
Eaton then added to her argument that the council should put in more restrictions for the properties.
“But my concern is passing it before we put the regulations on it that we want. I think there should be regulations on what the building looks like,” she said.
Bruce Nethery, who with his family is planning to open Rut N Strut Distillery on Gordon Lane, assured Eaton that they had intentions of maintaining Shelbyville’s beauty and heritage in their building design.
“We’re looking at metal, maybe some brick, wood, stone. We’re kicking around a lot of ideas,” he said. “We are not just putting up a pole barn, I promise you. This is going to be a lot of timber frame. We are putting a lot of detail into this building.”
Hardesty assured the council that regulations could be changed later if the board desired.
“My intent, after we have first and second readings, is to form a committee to meet with zoning and start the process of drilling down to everything we think of that we want to do. You want to change the road frontage, you want to change the building frontage design standards, a whole lot of things we can do,” he said.
However, Hardesty urged the council to make a decision.
“In order to move the Netherys forward, we are going to have to do something, we are going to have to pass an ordinance of this, whether it’s twenty-five acres, fifteen, whatever you all come up with, but we need to move this forward because the next step once we do this is we’re going to have to annex the Nethery’s property into the city limits before they can ever start their process,” he said.