Proposed beer brewery draws support and opposition

Supporters of a proposed microbrewery with a pub and patio at 100 Raton Drive squared off against neighbors at the Planning and Zoning Board’s Dec. 5 meeting, which was attended by about 50 people. The board closed the hearing and will likely vote on the proposal at its Dec. 19 meeting.

Those in favor said the microbrewery would give Milford its first location in a growing industry, while nearby neighbors asked the board to reject the pub and patio, fearing it will disrupt their quality of life.

Tribus Beer of Milford has applied to the P&Z for a special exception for a brewery with a pub and patio. The 2.28-acre property is zoned Limited Industrial District and has a 15,000 square foot building that is a warehouse with an office.

Under the zoning regulations, manufacturing is a permitted use in the zone. The tasting room or pub and patio require a special exception, since they are not specifically permitted or prohibited in this zone. Special exceptions require at least seven of the 10 board members to vote in favor.

Attorney Thomas Lynch said Tribus would use 11,000 square feet in the 15,000 square foot building, and said the owners have started renovating the property and constructing the brewery.

Lynch said the landlord does not plan to rent out the remaining 4,000 square feet of space. The building has been connected to the sanitary sewer system and the septic tank has been abandoned.

Lynch said the parking lot has 65 parking spaces, and 57 are required. Per a recommendation from City Engineer Gregory Pidluski, Tribus will install new driveway aprons in the parking lot. The United Illuminating Company would install exterior lights.

“These facilities are a real amenity to a town,” said Lynch. “Breweries and wineries add a vitality to the town and bring in people.”

Lynch said Tribus plans to install a 1,000 square foot patio on the east side of the building, saying there would be no music or live entertainment on the patio. There would also be a location for a food truck, since the brewery will not have kitchen facilities.

Manufacturing hours would be Mondays and Tuesdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesdays through Fridays from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m., said Lynch The tasting room would operate Wednesdays to Sundays from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Lynch said Tribus is in the process of obtaining a license from the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. Such a license would also allow them to serve wine and hard cider. Tribus also plans to sell branded apparel and glassware.

This would be a small-scale brewery with 900 barrels brewed per month, as compared to Two Roads Brewery in Stratford that brews 176,000 barrels per month, said Lynch.

Lynch said neighbors are concerned about traffic and said delivery trucks would use Bic Drive to Shelland Street to Plains Road to access Raton Drive, commenting that the city has an ordinance prohibiting truck traffic on the lower part of Plains Road. He said the brewery’s website will direct patrons to use this same route.

“We believe that is going to substantially alleviate that concern,” said Lynch. No outdoor music is planned out of respect for neighbor’s noise concerns. He said the production would be completely inside the building “to keep smells from emanating from the building.”

Traffic Engineer J.A. Koolis said the facility would add 37 vehicle trips in the evening peak hour. He said the sightlines for the driveways on Raton Drive, and at Plains Road meet or exceed the minimum requirement for the speed on those roads.

“We concluded the project would not have a significant impact on traffic in the area,” said Koolis.

Commenting on the plans, City Planner David B. Sulkis said the indoor tasting room would be 600 square feet and there are plans for live music with a sound system within the building. Sulkis said the unused 4,270 square feet of space necessitates 18 additional parking spaces, meaning the property has a parking deficit. He said there is no lighting plan or landscaping plan. He said a hillside on the property is being regraded, but there is no information on the plans about it.

“UI doesn’t care about our regulations. They want the lights to be as bright as they can be, and this often conflicts with our regulations,” said Sulkis.

Nine people spoke in favor of the brewery, saying it would be an asset to Milford, while 13 residents of the adjoining residential zone spoke in opposition.

Michael Finley said the craft brewing industry is booming in Connecticut with 60 existing breweries and another 40 planned. Finley said this would be Milford’s first local brewery and Stratford is benefiting from craft brewing, saying that Two Road is the largest craft brewery in the state.

Gregory Harla, vice chairman of the Milford Economic Development Commission, said craft brewing is a $718 million industry in Connecticut that attracts tourists.

Frederick Miller of 65 Henry Albert Drive said, “I think it is very important we continue to attract businesses of this type,” adding that it would generate tax revenue without putting a burden on city schools.

Miller said he can hear the noise from the Milford Riders Motorcycle Club, but said he was not concerned about noise from the indoor sound system at the pub. He also said traffic would be spread out over time.

William McDonald of 32 Elizabeth St., said Tribus would be sensitive to neighbors’ concerns, commenting, “This brewery will bring distinction to Milford.”

Speaking in opposition, Vincent Sarullo of 45 Haystack Rd. said he served eight years on the P&Z and was involved with the development of zoning regulations. Sarullo said the brewery “helps tax rates stay down” and this “is a good thing” for Milford.

However, Sarullo said, “This is not a zone for a pub or patio.  We set up downtown Milford just for this. To put a pub and a patio in an industrial zone makes absolutely no sense.”

Sarullo presented photos from New England Brewery in Woodbridge, showing how it is located in a commercial zone by restaurants and car dealerships, and is not near a residential zone. He said that Two Roads is located on a large parcel of land in a heavy industrial zone with a large parking and grass area and is not near a residential area.

David Proskin of 136 Harvest Lane said he “generally would be in support” of the brewery, but is

“not in favor of the beer garden and outside patio.” Proskin said he did a search on Google for directions and four of the five recommended routes used Plains Road.

Andrew Litowitz of 198 Cornfield Rd. said he was opposed to the outside area, saying it does not fit the character of the area. Litowitz said food trucks use generators that are loud. He said directions on a website would not prevent people from using Plains Road.

“It will not be in harmony with the area,” said Litowitz.

Robin Moran of 500 Plains Road said a project needs to be in harmony with the area and not have a traffic impact. Moran said Plains Road is a winding street and she does not think people will use Shelland Street, which she said has no streetlights. She said patio lighting would affect neighbors and if the pub doors are open, there would be noise.

“This will have a negative impact on the value of my home,” said Moran.

Michael Bresnan of 499 Plains Road said he is a small business owner in Milford, and said, the brewery is not a problem, but selling beer on the site is a problem.

“This is no place for a pub. There are “dozens of vacant buildings for sale along Route 1.” Bresnan said. “These beers are much stronger than Budweiser. They will be driving impaired through our neighborhood.”