Loudoun County’s booming winery and brewery scene is famous around the DC region. Our craft beverage producers win national awards as scenic views, and tasty libations bring in tourists and boost economic development. Getting into the craft beverage scene is tempting for longtime landowners. It also appeals to folks buying land to achieve business dreams in a pastoral setting. However, getting approvals and permits at the county and state levels isn’t always easy. It’s a complicated process involving multiple state and local agencies, including your locality’s Planning and Zoning and Building and Development departments, the state agency regulating alcoholic beverages and state and local health departments. It’s a lot to navigate, and mistakes can be costly. Working with a seasoned land use attorney is vital.
What Makes Loudoun’s Winery and Brewery Scene So Vibrant?
Over four decades, Loudoun’s craft beverage scene has grown from a handful of pioneering wineries to nearly 50 wineries and 30 breweries. Our gorgeous scenery and high-quality craft beverages make our agritourism efforts a regional draw. From petting goats to sipping wine, Loudoun has become a mecca for “agritainment,” farm-based entertainment activities from pony rides to festivals to wine and beer tastings. Local leaders estimate that agritourism brings more than $400 million annually to the county. But launching a new rural economy business is not always a cakewalk, and there are mines to be avoided.
Zoning Requirements for Breweries and Wineries Are Clear as Mud
Typical uses and new businesses require zoning clearance before they can commence operations or build structures. Any locality’s zoning ordinance will typically divide areas into districts, with distinctions made among uses and rural versus suburban. In Loudoun, there are special overlay and performance standards to complicate things further. In 2023, local leaders are likely to adopt a new zoning ordinance with “place types” as the basis of regulation.
Under current regulations in Loudoun for example, farm breweries can only open on land zoned Agricultural Rural (including AR-1, AR-2, A-3 or A-10), and there are acreage limitations and operational considerations for private water and septic. Farm winery zoning requirements are different. A winery may operate in some non-agricultural areas in certain circumstances.
- The Government’s Planning and Zoning office can opine on what development regulations may apply to your project, but they often give answers that can be varied depending on how you ask the question.
- Some of the issues missed that can burn you later are location restrictions from road width and access, title and building code issues that may apply, depending on the particulars.
- If you want to use your winery or brewery as an event venue, there are zoning ordinance sections covering weddings and other special events. There are ways to secure revenue ahead of the schedules the government may proscribe.
What Are Other Legal Considerations When Opening a Winery or Brewery?
- In addition to county zoning regulations, wineries and breweries are subject to laws and regulations from the Virginia ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control), which regulates wine and beer production and sales in the commonwealth.
- If you are adding or upgrading structures, you’ll need to consider what Building and Development office permits are required. Federal, state and local environmental regulations apply – and influence – site design and uses.
- You need a separate permit if you want to run a full-service kitchen or restaurant at your winery or brewery. This also has special implications for your private septic utilities.
- If you need to add or update well and septic systems on the property, you’ll go through the Virginia Department of Health.
Can I DIY The Permitting Process for My Winery or Brewery?
Landowners can go through the permitting process directly. However, mistakes can be costly and delay your goals. Loudoun’s local government is currently rewriting its zoning ordinance, creating uncertainty. So landowners and investors need to stay informed of existing and future plans.
What Are the Benefits of Working with a Land Use Attorney for My Zoning Needs?
Loudoun County loves its wineries and breweries. The benefits they bring to tourism in the rural economy are undeniable, and our county government supports the burgeoning agritainment sector. Still, getting up-to-date zoning and permitting information is a challenge for landowners. Working with a professional land use attorney can help you move the process forward and avoid snags and headaches. The Leesburg law firm of Troxell Leigh features a dynamic land use and zoning practice led by real estate attorney Benjamin Leigh. They work with county and town governments and state agencies to navigate the process. The Troxell Leigh team helps make those dreams come true, growing a vibrant sector of our local economy. We even represent rural economy businesses in the sale of the enterprise, which has its own host of issues.