Note; I have been involved with this issue for a while.
Nanobrewery Siting Comes To a Head at Swarthmore ZHB Hearing
By Robert Small
On Tuesday, May 22, the Swarthmore Zoning Hearing Board hosted an overflow crowd that spilled out from the Council Room into the atrium of Borough Hall.
Attracting the crowd was the board’s hearing on the application by the newly-formed Swarthmore Beer Company for a zoning variance which would allow it to open a nanobrewery* at 620 Yale, currently home of the long-established Swarthmore Collision Center. For many years, Swarthmore Collision Center has been permitted to operate in a non-conforming use variance, because it was established at the site before residential zoning was applied to the neighborhood for years.
The Swarthmore Beer Company would share the property with the continued operation of the Swarthmore Collision Center. The beer company’s representatives said that they would only use a small part of the body shop. Their enterprise would only consist of brewing – an activity seemingly so different from the existing business as to run afoul of state law prohibiting two variances on one property. [JOHN: is this correctly stated?]
Though there was some support for this new variance among Swarthmore residents who spoke at the hearing, there was also opposition by other neighbors who want their neighborhood to remain residential. Several said they couldn’t imagine this variance being proposed in any other Swarthmore residential neighborhoods. Issues of increased pedestrian and foot traffic and an increased need for parking were not addressed by the pro-SBC side.
It was explained that the “Biddle Tract controversy”, prevented the Swarthmore Beer Company from locating in the Swarthmore business district, though they could also open up their nanobrewery in Morton, which some believe would be a much more welcoming location.
The meeting went on from 8 to 9:30 p.m., with many persons getting their say before the hearing was continued until Tuesday, June 26 at 7:15 p.m. The attorney for The Swarthmore Beer Company has a June 1 deadline to file a brief with the ZHB, summarizing the case for a “piggyback” variance. The Board will consider the issues and arguments, meet again at 7 p.m. on the 26th, then announce its judgment publicly at 7:15.