White Hall District Supervisor Ann Mallek asked the audience at the Crozet Community Association meeting March 13 to consider the possibility that a brewery might build on the undeveloped parcel at the corner of Old Trail Drive and Rt. 250.
The property is currently zoned residential and was specifically discussed during both the 2004 and 2009 rounds of town master planning when Crozetians rejected the possibility of shopping centers along Rt. 250. Old Trail’s commercial area was put in the center of the project to avoid repeating the sprawl pattern of suburban highway retail.
“Is it reasonable for it to be zoned business?” asked Mallek. “We should be ready in case a proposal comes forward.”
That hint was earnest enough for the topic to be added promptly to the Crozet Community Advisory Council’s meeting the next Thursday.
Mallek told CCAC members that the county has been getting inquiries about the property.
“A brewery is interested in an East Coast location,” she said. “This particular company has a farm-to-table restaurant and a beer garden. There would be trucks involved, one or two an hour. It’s not suitable for downtown.”
For now it’s assumed access would be off Old Trail Drive, but Mallek suggested that an access off Rt. 250 at the west end of the parcel (roughly in the vicinity of Las Cabanas grocery) might be possible.
CCAC members seemed cool to the idea until Mallek said the company expected to work continuous shifts and have 376 jobs. That number made everyone pause.
“They’re interested in Albemarle because of our local agriculture scene,” said Mallek, which goes with the company’s environmental sustainability ethos.
The location is close to Interstate 64 for shipping and the site has good panoramas of the mountains. The company wants to be part of the Brew Ridge Trail that ties local breweries into an itinerary for tourists. “These businesses do well in a cluster,” Mallek said. “Being near Rt. 151 is good marketing for them.”
To make it less conspicuous from the highway the brewery could be sited lower on the parcel’s slope, she said.
When asked if the restaurant had to adjoin the brewery, Mallek passed around a photo of a post-modernist industrial building with a restaurant patio where diners looked through wall-sized windows into the brewery operation.
Tim Tolson promptly photographed the picture and then Google searched it. It came up on the site of Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, California, the 10th largest craft brewer in the country which has developed an East Coast clientele. It uses a gothic gargoyle as its symbol. With 900 employees, Stone brewed 213,000 barrels of beer last year, and dozens of locations in the East are vying to attract its proposed new $29 million, 130,000- to 220,000-square–foot brewery.
CCAC members asked what the brewery’s water and sewer requirements would be and expressed some ambivalence about increasing traffic in such proximity to schools. White Hall District Planning Commissioner Tom Loach suggested that the Old Trail HOA be asked for an opinion.