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Newly-approved at 418 Forest Road, Stewards of the Land Farm Brewery will be based out of a former farmhouse (set to be renovated and expanded) on a total of more than 16 acres of farm land in North Branford. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Its official: North Branford's first farm brewery operation and retail patron site will be established at 418 Forest Road, the future home of Stewards of the Land Farm Brewery.
On January 3, the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) voted unanimously, 4-0, to approve the farm brewery's special permit request and site plan submitted in November 2018, with some conditions. The application was brought by co-owner Alex DeFrancesco, a member of the North Branford DeFrancesco Farms family. DeFrancesco, who is also a member of the PZC, recused himself from the commission's review.
The PZC addressed issued raised by members of the community during a one-night public hearing on Dec. 6 (see related story here) as well as questions raised by commission members and concerns from town department heads, especially with regard to traffic safety and entertainment/manufacturing noise levels impacting the surrounding neighborhoods.
Next, the DeFrancesco family will combine two parcels of farmland behind 418 Forest Road into one, creating a single parcel of at least 10 acres of active farm, as required by the town's farm brewery zoning text amendment approved in 2018. Once combined, the new parcel at 418 Forest Road will be over 16 acres. The brewery will also comply with town regs by using ingredients grown locally on at least one acre of land as beer ingredients.
The PZC approved a site plan which includes renovating an existing farmhouse on the property as the home of the brewery. It will accommodate an average of 20 patrons in its first-floor Tap Room and outdoor patio area. A new addition at the back of the building will be constructed to house the brewery operation and beer manufacturing facility.
As part of its approval on Jan. 3, the PZC determined the brewery operation will be complying with state requirements for waste water discharge and removal of spent grains. Another condition specifically worked out as part of the special permit discussion between the PZC and the brewery owners are hours of manufacturing and initial hours of retail (tap room) operation.
Once the brewery is open to the public, initial retail hours will be Friday from 4 p.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.; with no retail hours Monday through Thursday. The brewery has the option to go back to PZC to request additional retail hours in the future, based on customer response and other factors which would invite additional hours of retail operation.
Manufacturing hours for the brewery were approved on Jan. 3 to include production taking place seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., much like a farming operation's hours, said Town Planner Carey Duques.
"I think it's a great re-use of the building, and that it maintains the agricultural feel of the town," said Duques of the newly-approved farm brewery. "And that's where the commission was going with the farm brewery [concept] when they accepted the text amendment."