Battle over beer still brewing in Wilmington - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Battle over beer still brewing in Wilmington

The debate over beer in Wilmington could be coming to a head. (Source: File) The debate over beer in Wilmington could be coming to a head. (Source: File)

The debate over beer in Wilmington could be coming to a head.

City planners are close to moving forward with a list of changes to the rules on how breweries can operate inside city limits; however, the Wilmington Planning Commission has not taken any formal action yet.

It's a battle that has been brewing for months. Prospective brewers want to set up shop in the central business districts like downtown, but city leaders have reservations about the baggage they could bring to the area.

The planning commission met in a special called workshop on Wednesday night to hash out details.

The proposal up for discussion would make three significant alterations to the city's zoning codes:

  1. Clarify the definition of what a brewery is
  2. Create a list of conditions for each one based on size and the amount of truck traffic it would bring to the area
  3. Make the city's zoning laws more welcoming to the craft brewing industry

While local brewers and business owners are pleased with the city's intentions to move forward, some are angered by the lengthy process.

"We're frustrated. We're frustrated by the time it's taken," said Ted Coughlin, owner of Iron Clad Brewery. "We thought this would be done a few months ago. But they did their due diligence and did what's right for Wilmington, but it should have been a little quicker."

We've also learned that part of the reason why the process is being delayed is because two members of the planning commission had potential conflicts of interest with this issue.

Bruce McGuire and Paul Boney recused themselves from Wednesday's meeting.

Board Chair Deb Hays explained that Boney backed off for professional reasons. McGuire was asked to recuse himself because of his involvement in a pending lawsuit with a local brewery.

When asked why he didn't recuse himself from earlier discussions on this issue, McGuire said he did not feel it was necessary based on consultations with the NC Ethics Commission; however, after talking with the city attorney, they decided it was appropriate for McGuire to recuse himself going forward.

Moving forward, the planning board will host another public hearing and is expected to take some form of action at its next regular meeting on Wednesday, August 6.

Any final decision would still have to be approved by city council.

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