Photo courtesy of Olde Main Brewing Company
By Andrew Duffelmeyer
The Ames City Council has voted to allow banquet halls, exhibition areas and meeting areas in combination with breweries in industrial zoned areas. The change came at the request of Olde Main Brewing Company's owner, Scott Griffen, who would like to build a brewery and events center near the Interstate 35 corridor in Ames.
The city's previous zoning ordinance allowed for breweries in industrial zones, but it didn't allow for both breweries and event halls. It also doesn't allow for manufacturing - such as brewing, bottling and distributing beer - in commercial areas, where an event hall would be allowed.
"The issue is that our current code, if we were to combine what Scott would like, and that is having an events center combined with a brewery, we don't have a zone that allows both of those in the same zone," Ames Planning and Zoning Director Steve Osguthorpe explained.
The business would be located on South Bell Ave. in the far southeast limits of the city. That's in an industrial park near the intersection of I-35 and U.S. Highway 30, where the city put in infrastructure in advance of development and will recoup its expenses through tax increment financing (TIF).
City Councilman Matthew Goodman was the lone "no" vote against the code change, saying he wants to make sure the city is focusing on using industrial land for strictly industrial activities, especially in the TIF park. He preferred instead changing city code to allow locating a brewery in commercial zones.
"I would lean toward commercial, to making sure brewing would be allowed in commercial for these types of activities," Goodman said. "Does that kill this project, if brewing is now allowed in areas where you now have hotels…is that the only way this project works, if you're in an industrial TIF park on Bell Avenue?"
Griffen said his main reasoning for wanting to locate in that industrial park is to be near hotels and have visibility from major roadways.
"I've looked at a lot of areas and the I-35 corridor is attractive in that way because so many cars go by, and that's one of the reasons I would put it there," he said.
Councilman Peter Orazem said he's been to a similar brewery and events center in Dubuque, which he described as being a draw for tourists with nearby restaurants and meeting areas. He asked whether locating in the industrial zone would eat up a good deal of land for parking.
"It makes sense for me to say if you really want to have sort of a meeting venue for receptions or something like that and a brewery then you ought to be in one place," Orazem said. "If you really want to be a brewery…that's the other type. But I think you have to choose which is your primary business and define what area you want to be in on that basis."
Councilman Jeremy Davis said if Griffen wants to expand the brewing operation in the future, it makes more sense to locate in the industrial zone. And Councilman Jami Larson said he'd like to allow not just breweries with attached event centers but other types of non-traditional businesses to locate in industrial zones as well.
"I think what he's talking about doing it is a pretty unique thing, and I'd hate to limit it to breweries, quite frankly," Larson said.
And Developer Chuck Winkleblack noted the city negotiated a minimum assessment in the TIF park, so it is guaranteed the incremental tax amounts will cover the costs of the already laid infrastructure. He said Griffen's project may not work in a commercial area, where land is much more expensive.
"This seems to be the easiest and smoothest way to make it happen, in the industrial park," Winkleblack said. "If you take it somewhere else, his business model may not work, if instead of a couple hundred thousand dollars for land he could be north of seven figures."