City Council special meeting, Dec. 18, 2014–Brewery passage

REESECROP

A Google Maps view of the area of intense retail interest on Central Avenue and Reese Street. Business owners have objected to the proposed brewery (marked in gold) primarily because of parking congestion.

Showing their superlative support of a brewery and bottling plant on the Little Donkey/Octane site, the council met in a special noon session today to rezone the property from C-4 (commercial) to M-1 (light-manufacturing). The M-1 zoning is required for brewmaster and business applicant Joseph Pilleteri to eventually bottle his craft beer at the site, although he doesn’t expect to begin bottling for another year.

The special meeting for a final approval was called after Mr. Hallman on Monday voted against allowing item to be decided at the same meeting it was introduced. A state law to guard against hasty legislation provides that ordinances be read at two separate meetings unless all members present give “unanimous consent” to waive the requirement. Mr. Hallman’s no vote and first position on roll call abruptly ended the question that night.

The brewery’s principals then stalked out, followed by the mayor. Before adjourning, the council president called the special meeting to hurry through approval.

The former A&P is slated to be converted to a craft beer brewery and bottling operation following the passage today of a rezoning from commercial to manufaturing.

The former A&P is slated to be converted to a craft beer brewery and bottling operation following the passage today of a rezoning from commercial to manufaturing.

Today’s vote

In the audience were Mr. Pilleteri and several objectors seen at earlier meetings, including Mr. Mark Ballard, who reportedly circulated a petition against the business. Parking at the site is the main objection to nearby businesses. However, the council’s public hearing had been closed the previous Monday and audience members were content to listen. Noting the objectors, Mr. Wright announced prior to the vote that the rezoning was to accommodate a bottling operation; The current zoning already allowed a brewery and taproom with no additional parking, he said.

Following the vote, Mr. Pilleteri spoke informally about his proposed Red Hills brewery operation. The home-brewer-turned-entrepreneur will lease the building from owner Kenneth Williams. He is interested in producing “session beers” or low-alcohol craft brews, of which the premiere batch will be an IPA, presented in time for the Birmingham Beer Festival in early summer. At 39, and with two children, Mr. Pilleteri said he didn’t need a “next morning” from quaffing high alcohol-content craft beers. He hoped to brew an Irish Red Ale and a Peach Wheat as well.

Mr. Pilleteri conducts occupational health and safety seminars at the University of Alabama and lives in North Shelby County. It will take months to take delivery of new brewing vats and equipment, he said, because the craft beer industry is growing so rapidly. “There is no used equipment left,” he said.

Follow the approval trail:  November Planning Commission vote 5-1;  Dec. 4 BZA approval; Dec. 15 council vote.

Members present: Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Patrick McClusky,  Barry Smith, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and Bruce Limbaugh. Mayor Scott McBrayer was not present.

Members absent: Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, and Walter Jones.

Staff present: City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, and mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, and city planning & zoning engineer Vanessa McGrath.

Audience attendance: 11

Announced Park Board position vacancy and application period: An at-large vacancy on the Park and Recreation Board was announced, with the application period being closed on Jan. 5, 2015. (The city website notes the application period already closed.) The vacancy is created by the term limit of outgoing member Tom Walker.

Voted 7-1 to rezone a parcel at 2821 Central Avenue to accommodate a brewery and bottling operation.

Voting no: Mr. Hallman, citing objections from business owners, had voted against a unanimous consent motion on Monday that would have allowed the measure to be decided that evening. He maintained his opposition today, presumably for the same reasons. As the motion for approval was made, Mr. Hallman asked if the ordinance would receive a second reading. The city attorney said he could re-read it, but was not required to, and the vote proceeded to passage.

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