Northborough Planning Board weighs bylaw for breweries

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NorthboroughNORTHBOROUGH – A proposed bylaw would establish and clarify definitions and regulations regarding possible breweries in Northborough. 

The bylaw was previously proposed by Planning Board member Amy Poretsky and was revisited during a meeting on Jan. 4.

“The brew pubs seem more like a restaurant that also brews beer as an accessory use while the nanobrewery was more of the brewery and then had food as an accessory use,” Poretsky said during that Planning Board meeting.

Under the bylaw, nanobreweries and brewpubs would be allowed with a special permit by the Zoning Board of Appeals or the Planning Board in the Downtown Business, Business East, Business South and Business West districts. 

Microbreweries would be allowed in the same districts with a special permit, with the exception of the Downtown Business district. No microbreweries would be allowed there.

Microbreweries, nanobreweries and brewpubs would be allowed in the Highway Business district by right. 

Breweries, distilleries and wineries with a tasting room would be allowed by special permit in the industrial district.

Poretsky said she studied other communities’ bylaws governing breweries. These included language on production capacity, she said, with some further clarifying how much of that product could be sold and distributed in a year. 

For example, microbreweries sometimes had their production capacity limited to 15,000 barrels, Poretsky said.

For a nanobrewery, which is also considered a craft brewery, some towns limited the production capacity to 6,000 barrels a year. Sale and distribution sometimes could not exceed 25% of a nanobrwery’s production capacity. 

Poretsky added that some towns didn’t have capacity definitions in their bylaws. 

“I didn’t know if [it] was better to have it or not have it, but at least there’s a max capacity in case it grows too large,” Poretsky said of this capacity topic.

Town Engineer Fred Litchfield asked why the towns felt the language regarding proportion of sale was necessary.

“It seems like if 75% of their production has to be consumed on site, then it’s really more of a restaurant and a bar than a brewery just to make the beer,” Litchfield said. 

Member Millie Milton said the bylaw was trying to make that distinction between a brewery and a restaurant and bar. 

“I think that’s why they have that capacity limitation — if you’re greater than that, you’re something else,” Milton said.

Inspector of Buildings and Zoning Enforcement Officer Bob Frederico asked who set the capacity number. 

He also asked whether it was set during the planning process or after a facility was built. 

“That’s a very gray area that I think it probably needs to have some more clarification,” Frederico said.

Poretsky said that, when talking with former Town Planner Kathy Joubert, she thought those capacity numbers might be a standard number.

Poretsky said she could call towns to ask for more information.

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