Proposed brewery not a likely option in Red Hook

Lack of existing farm operation key hurdle facing applicant

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Jakob Cirell returned to the Red Hook Zoning Board of Appeals on August 8 for the second part of a public hearing on whether the zoning code would allow a brewery to be established at a property behind the Red Hook Golf Course.

However, Cirell, a proposed tenant on the property, had not yet acquired a letter of authorization from the property owner Mitchell Bodian, who did not attend the hearing. Without that authorization, which had been requested of Cirell by the board at the first hearing on July 11, no ruling on the zoning interpretation could be issued.

Red Hook’s Zoning Enforcement Officer Bob Fennell had denied the initial application by Cirell, stating that in the RD3 district, a brewery would have to be an accessory use on a farm, not the primary use. And since the property in question, at 214 Oriole Mills Road, does not have an operating farm, a brewery is not allowed.

At the July 11 meeting, according to the minutes, Cirell said he planned to open a very small brewery — 74 barrels in the first year, the equivalent of about 140 kegs — and would build a farm around it. The waste product from beer production, he said, is perfect for livestock feed and 75 barrels of beer would produce about 2,000 pounds of animal feed, enough to support 150 chickens.

Cirell made reference at that meeting to a 1999 interpretation that allowed the establishment of Alison Winery at Greig Farm on Pitcher Lane. However, other speakers pointed out that there was already a thriving farm at that time.

Among those who spoke at the July hearing, according to the minutes, was Harvey Cohn who said he has lived across the street from the Bodian property for 50 years and there had never been a farm there. The only agriculture use of the property was horse boarding, a recent enterprise that is no longer operating, Cohn said.

Cohn pointed out that the zoning code requires that the brewery be secondary to farm use and without an operating farm, an approval for a brewery would be misuse of a clause meant to help legitimate farmers.

Another neighbor, Christopher Lindner, agreed with Cohn’s assessment, adding that for horse boarding to qualify as a farm, at least 10 horses must be boarded on 10 acres. “We have talked to the horse boarders … and were told that they had seven horses on three acres,” Lindner said.

After hearing many of the same arguments from the dozen members of the public in attendance, the zoning board seemed prepared to rule on the interpretation at the August 8 meeting with ZBA Chair Nick Annas reading a list of findings by the board on a draft decision, which included the facts that “crops have not been grown on the farm for several decades” and “the horse boarding operation has ceased.”

He stopped short of reading the final decision because the letter of authorization and the property owner were not available.

The ZBA extended the public hearing to its Wednesday, Sept. 12 meeting. The applicant, property owner and public may still submit comments to the ZBA before the next meeting.

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