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On Wednesday May 26th, Borough Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed comprehensive zoning updates. Of particular concern to the BID is the prohibition on new breweries, wineries and distilleries in the downtown. The BID presented to the committee at the first public hearing in February and March and outlined how this was the wrong approach.

There seems to be support on Council to allow these businesses as a Conditional Use. In zoning there are three categories: Permitted Use, Conditional Use, or banned. Permitted use means a business can set up as a designated use. Conditional use means businesses would have to follow a set of stipulations and go through a Conditional Use Hearing to get approval to open. Conditional Use process is expensive and complicated especially for new businesses.

You can read the proposed conditions here. Of particular concern is condition four, which states that a brewery, winery, or distillery shall not be located within three-hundred feet (300’) of a hospital, charitable institution, medical clinic, religious use, school, public park or municipal recreational facility; or within two-hundred feet (200’) of any other premises which is licensed by the PLCB. This is effectively a ban on these types of businesses by way of regulation.

The BID’s official position and request of Council is to allow these types of businesses as a permitted use instead of a conditional use.

When businesses look at locations, they are always going to gravitate to the path of least resistance. If West Chester sets up more hurdles for entrepreneurs looking to open up here, we could see a number of empty store fronts. These establishments do not engender nuisance issues. The customer that these types of business target is much different than a college-age individual. Further, the current state restrictions on the type of product that they can sell and the hours that they can operate also limit potential issues with law enforcement.

Much of West Chester’s revitalization over the last 20 years can be traced to Iron Hill Brewery at the corner of Gay Street and High Street. While we still believe that West Chester is the premier town in our area, we do have to recognize we are not an island unto ourselves and we are facing stiff competition from places like Media, Kennett Square, Phoenixville, Downingtown, and Pottstown. All of these towns saw our winning formula and have sought to emulate it. That is why these towns allow breweries, wineries, and distilleries as a permitted use.

Please let us know how this proposal would affect your property!

About the author : John O'Brien