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Micro-Distilleries in the Ag-Rural Zone

Micro-Distilleries in the Ag-Rural Zone

Read Our Position Statement

Tomorrow, August 25th at 1:30pm, Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on a Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment (ZOTA) to permit a small farm micro-distillery as a conditional use in the Agricultural-Rural (A-R) zone. In addition to a distilling operation, limited to 1,000 gallons of spirits, they would be permitted those activities under KRS including sampling, souvenir package sales, retail drink sales, and bottling, all in our most sensitive zone.

We support agritourism, agribusiness, and even micro-distilleries connected to agriculture in our rural Ag areas when they are done in a thoughtful, sustainable way. Currently, the ZOTA would allow an industrial use in the A-R zone, without requiring any connection between the distillery and the land. This undermines the intent of the A-R zone for ag production and preservation of our finite rural area. This could open the door to additional industrial/commercial/retail uses unassociated with any agricultural use, weakening our agricultural economy and future investment in our rural area for truly agricultural operations.

The last time changes were made to our most sensitive agricultural zones, it was a multi-year process and involved stakeholder input. There has been no stakeholder conversation requested and no input from those in the rural area. Changes that look to increase agribusiness and agritourism are important, but they should be done comprehensively and not ZOTA by ZOTA, chipping away at the intent of this zone, or any other.

We feel it is possible to incorporate some type of similar use into the A-R zone, but it must be done thoughtfully and carefully to avoid negative unintended consequences to our Bluegrass brand and our agricultural economy.

We are calling on the Planning Commission and Planning Staff to consider the expansion of agribusiness and agritourism uses in the agricultural zones comprehensively, as part of the 2045 Comprehensive Plan process and/or a separate effort similar to the Recreation and Tourism ZOTA completed in 2016, instead of ZOTA by ZOTA. We recommend establishing a diverse stakeholder committee to evaluate these types of uses while maintaining the intent of the A-R and other agricultural zones.

Will you join us in our effort? 

Read our position statement below and email the Planning Commission with the below sample email.

Sample Email:

Dear Members of the Planning Commission:

I am writing to you to request that you recommend disapproval of PLN-ZOTA-22-00011: Amendment to Agricultural Rural (A-R) Zone to Allow Small Farm Micro-Distilleries.

With additional discussion with rural stakeholders, revised language, a requirement of an agricultural nexus (the agricultural connection between permitted uses and the land on which they occur), and additional consideration of the impacts of introducing industrial uses into our A-R zone, there is an opportunity to include uses like a small farm micro-distillery in our A-R zone while ensuring we do not weaken our agricultural economy and our unique brand.

In order to protect the factory floor of our community, we should ensure there are significant requirements around the direct connection between the use contemplated and the agricultural land on which that use is located; a threshold “agricultural-nexus”. This nexus will protect our core agricultural land, the businesses that are supported by it, and the unique identity of Lexington-Fayette County and prevent new contemplated uses from threatening the land and economy that sustains us.

In addition, careful limitations should be put on auxiliary uses for retail and commercial entertainment purposes associated with any new or expanded uses in our A-R zone, to ensure the intent of the zone is not undermined, and our productive farmland is not adversely impacted. Most importantly, any expansion of uses in our most sensitive agricultural zone be done comprehensively; that new and/or expanded uses in the A-R zone be examined together, at one time, and by a robust committee to ensure feedback from across the community, as opposed to adding uses by changing the text of the zone ZOTA by ZOTA.

Thank you for your time and consideration.