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Montgomery Council enacts zoning measure to expand business options for wineries and farm breweries in County’s Agricultural Reserve

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 3, 2018

ROCKVILLE, Md., Oct. 2, 2018—Today the Montgomery County Council unanimously enacted Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 18-03, Farm Alcohol Production, that will expand business options for wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries located in the County’s Agricultural Reserve. Council President Hans Riemer and Councilmember Craig Rice are the lead sponsors of this zoning measure. Councilmembers George Leventhal, Sidney Katz, Nancy Floreen and Tom Hucker and Council Vice President Nancy Navarro are cosponsors. 

The goal of ZTA 18-03 is to establish and update the conditions under which alcohol production and associated activities will be allowed in rural areas of the County for wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries.  

“The purpose of this zoning change is to create an environment where small alcohol producers aren’t disadvantaged against big companies,” said Council President Riemer.  “My colleagues and I have worked hard to address the concerns that have been raised by residents and organizations in our Agricultural Reserve, so we can open doors to this industry in a way that isn’t disruptive to the community.” 

“I believe this zoning measure allows our farming community the necessary flexibility and options to expand and grow,” said Councilmember Rice.  “We need to ensure we are supporting our farmers and the vital working economy within our Agricultural Reserve to ensure its sustainability and opportunity for continued growth and success.”

ZTA 18-03 used the zoning standards that were applicable to wineries that currently operate in the County’s Agricultural Reserve as a starting point and created new standards for breweries, cideries and distilleries.

In addition to the manufacturing of alcoholic beverages, ZTA 18-03 allows tasting rooms and the sale of food (to the extent allowed by the state manufacturing license).

The limitation on the size and frequency of events varies by the nature of the event.  For farm related events, which are those associated with the producer’s membership, friends, traditional farming or crop festivals, are allowed for an unlimited number of guest, but there is a limit of five ticketed events per year.  For events not related to farming, such as weddings, corporate retreats, birthday parties, general holidays or festivals, the number of guests would be limited to 225 participants.  Events with more than 100 people are limited to 50 per year. 

The new zoning standards also requires a connection to on-site farming. 

ZTA 18-03 provides that, “Wineries and cideries would be required to grow at least five acres of grapes or fruit on-site or on an abutting or confronting property; and have at least 20 acres of grapes or other fruit in cultivation on property they own, rent or control; or source a majority of their grapes or other fruit from Maryland.”  In addition, “Breweries and distillers would be required to grow at least one acre of products used in the production of alcohol.” 

ZTA 18-03 will take effect later this month. 

The Council staff report on ZTA 18-03 can be viewed here.

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Release ID: 18-245
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 240-777-7926, Juan Jovel 240-777-7931