More craft breweries, distilleries and wineries may soon be setting up shop in county locations.
County leaders adopted new zoning rules that expand the areas where these craft producers may do business, allowing them in selected industrial, commercial and planned development districts. The Board of Supervisors approved the changes on Tuesday, Feb. 28, that include the makers of craft beer, cider, mead, spirits and wine.
The changes could open the door for craft producers to start up in industrial areas and other commercial areas within Tysons, Reston and Lorton.
The new zoning rules recognize craft breweries, distilleries and wineries for the first time as a distinct, principal land use. They are defined based on the amount of alcohol produced, and the definition also distinguishes craft producers from larger scale ones.
Craft beverage producers are defined as producing no more than 20,000 barrels of beer or 36,000 gallons of distilled spirits, wine, cider or mead per year.
In the past, breweries have been allowed to operate from properties zoned for the highest intensity industrial uses. Now, they are permitted in select commercial and planned districts for the first time, such as Lorton and Reston. Brewers in these districts are subject to lower production limits however: no more than 5,000 barrels of beer, or 5,000 gallons of distilled spirits, wine, cider or mead per year.
The new regulations also allow craft producers to locate “by right” in the I-4 (Medium Intensity Industrial) Zoning District. Until now, brewers and distillers have needed a special exception to open in this zoning district.
The changes follow another recent effort to look at breweries, distilleries and wineries as distinct land uses. This past December, the county adopted new zoning rules for farm wineries operating as an agricultural use in various districts.
Fairfax County is encouraging craft brewing because it’s growing into a big business in Virginia and will help to diversify our economy as noted in the Economic Success Plan.
Craft breweries employ 9,000 people and produce more than $1 billion in economic impact in the state, according to the Brewers Association. There are more than 130 licensed craft breweries in the state, including seven in Fairfax County.
To showcase the industry’s growth in Fairfax County, the Workhouse Brewfest was held this past summer in Lorton. The event brought together seven craft breweries located in Fairfax, along with 34 other breweries, cideries, wineries and distilleries.