Powhatan County carves out new zoning for small-scale food production  

The Powhatan Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to include small-scale food and beverage production facilities in the county’s zoning ordinance this week. (Screenshot)

Powhatan County has cooked up a new land use in its zoning ordinance that caters to small food and beverage producers.

The newly minted Artisan Food and Beverage Production use refers to producers of specialty foods and non-alcoholic drinks for on-site retail and wholesale operations, establishing a definition for companies that fall between home-based operations and large industrial ventures.

The zoning ordinance amendment makes such operations a by-right use in mixed-use, commercial and industrial districts, specifically village center planned development (VC-PD), commerce center (CC), commerce center planned development (CC-PD), crossroads (CR), courthouse square center (CHSC), village center (VC) heavy industrial (I-2) and light industrial (I-1).

Standards for the new use include total gross floor area of 3,500 square feet or less generally, except in light and heavy industrial districts where the total gross floor area would be 5,000 square feet or less. The use doesn’t permit on-site food consumption.

While the county already had zoning rules on the books for home-based or large-scale industrial food production, companies between those stages didn’t have a clear-cut place in the ordinance, though businesses of the type covered by the new definition could have operated by-right in industrial districts.

“If you’re doing some baking or something like that in your home and you want to grow a little bit more, the next jump would be full industrial-scale zoning at the property — which is not where most of these people are looking to be,” Powhatan Assistant County Administrator Bret Schardein told the board at its meeting last month.

Such operations will be allowed to have an accessory office or retail space, though neither is a requirement. That’s a reversal from the initial staff proposal that got the planning commission’s recommendation in early June. The board struck out the requirement for an accessory office or store and approved the new zoning designation June 28.

The new zoning use came in response to interest from county home-based food companies that wanted to get into a commercial space.

“In recent years, the Economic Development Department has seen an increase in the number of small-scale production businesses that need a happy medium between start-up phase and the larger-scale producers, which the artisan use addresses in a way that allows those businesses to organically grow,” Powhatan Economic Development Program Manager Roxanne Salerno said in an emailed statement in early June.

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