Salem council votes to bridge zoning gap for microbreweries


By Alicia Petska
Capitalizing on the craft beer boom, Salem leaders voted to allow microbreweries in industrially zoned districts Monday.

The move bridges a gap in a zoning ordinance that already allowed larger breweries with distribution arms, such as Parkway Brewing Co., to set up shop in industrial areas with a permit from city council.

Monday’s decision means smaller-scale breweries could also apply for a permit in industrial zones. Microbreweries are already allowed in some zoning districts, such as the downtown business corridor, but hadn’t been written into the industrial zoning ordinance yet.

The move to update the ordinance comes as Salem is attracting growing interest from new local brewers.

One brewer is already lined up to seek a permit under the new zoning provision.

Ober Brewing Co., a project of couple Dave and Jennifer Ober, announced last month that it planned to convert an old warehouse on Lakeside Circle into a brewery and taproom.

The property is zoned for light manufacturing and will need to draw upon the new ordinance to get a permit.

Dave Ober, who plans to set up a 3.5-barrel brewing system, said Monday he’s been working closely with the city, and the zoning requirements were expected.

“They’ve been real good to us,” he said, adding he’s excited to get the brewery off the ground and believes they’ll beat their original goal of opening in January.

A December opening date now looks within reach, Ober said.

City Planner Ben Tripp said the zoning ordinance tweak reflects Salem’s efforts to keep pace with emerging market trends as interest and inquiries from potential craft brewers multiply.

The city’s zoning ordinance never even contemplated breweries until Parkway Brewing was proposed about four years ago.

It had to invoke a little-used procedure, dubbed a “use not provided for” permit, to approve that project.

The city has since added breweries or microbreweries to several zoning designations and continues to work to adapt to new demand.

“It’s really about keeping our code current with the type of businesses that are out there today and making sure we’re flexible and responsive to the community and its needs,” Tripp said.

Parkway Brewing is currently Salem’s only brewery and is the largest in the region. But two new, smaller sites — Ober Brewing and Olde Salem Brewing Co. on Main Street — plan to open their doors by the end of the year.

The proposal to add microbreweries to the industrial zoning ordinance unanimously passed a first vote of city council during a meeting Monday night.

No one spoke at a public hearing prior to the vote, said City Manager Kevin Boggess. The ordinance change will be brought back for a required second and final vote next month.

The language makes microbreweries eligible to apply for special-exception permits in industrial zones. The permitting process allows city council to vet each proposal and allows the community to weigh in at public hearings.

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