Citizen Cider Eyes SB for Expansion

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Thursday April 07, 2016

With the onset of the hard cider boom and Vermonters’ love of local products, it was only a matter of time before Citizen Cider would need to seek out potential locations for expansion.

Why not South Burlington?

Citizen Cider presented their plan for an agriculture-enterprise operation last week at the March 29 planning commission meeting. The proposed project would be on the Larkin owned orchard site, which is west of Hinesburg Road and Van Sicklen Road.

“We want it to be the spirit of what Citizen Cider is all about: community,” Co-Founder and President of Citizen Cider Justin Heilenbach said.

Heilenbach, accompanied by the rest of the project team explained the company’s history, current operations, and expansion needs. Heilenbach founded Citizen Cider in 2010 with Bryan Holmes and Kris Nelson. As their success continued to grow, they opened up the cider pub on Pine Street in Burlington in 2014. The apples are pressed in Middlebury and are transported to Burlington, but the company would like to have a full operation all on one site.

Citizen Cider works with growers all over Vermont and New York, so the proposal would involve large quantities of apples being transported from various places. They would then be pressed, fermented, aged, packaged, shipped, and sold in a retail store, which would also be on site. Additionally, there would be room for educational tours and other special activities.

Rather than just opting for an industrial site, the project would be consumer-facing and promote “agricultural tourism,” with the goal of making this a sought-out destination, Heilenbach added.

Architect Bren Alvarez provided renderings of what the project could look like. The concept outlines a road aligned with Van Sicklen Road for entry leading to a prominent two-story building of about 50,000 sq. ft. The second floor would reserve some space for administrative purposes. Alvarez explained that part of the roof would be slanted, and part of it would be flat to help bring light to the building. This would allow for amenities like a green roof and the possibility of solar panels. The project would be next to the existing solar farm which the building could also utilize.

Furthermore, the concept shows space for outdoor events as well as loading docks and dumpsters in the rear. The orchard would account for about eight acres, and
the plan could include a greenhouse that may be used for research and development purposes.

The building would be set back from the road, and Alvarez showed landscaping concepts and views from Hinesburg Road.

“This is transforming a drive-by orchard into a place people would visit and get to know,” Alvarez said. “It would become more integrated into the community.”

The idea was well-received by all present members of the commission.

Jessica Louisos, the chair of the planning commission, said that the concept is in line with the city’s goals.

“We’ve been talking about value-added agriculture for a long time,” she added.

“It’s appealing,” Ted Riehle said. As a neighbor of this potential project, he asked about noise during evening events. Heilenbach responded that they would be sensitive to that and be good neighbors.

Commissioner Bernie Gagnon asked about city sewer and water; the site is not currently on either, but Paul Conner, the city’s director of planning and zoning, showed the closest water and sewer connections for future consideration. Commissioners were also curious about how traffic would be affected.

The planning commission, intrigued by the idea, will continue the conversation. Such a project would involve changes to zoning regulations.

“We need to consider how is it zoned now and what kind of changes would we need to make to accommodate the different uses that are proposed,” Gagnon said. He said the commission will need to consider how to word the regulations in such a way that there are no unintended consequences.

Commissioner Sophie Quest noted that this project is timely as the planning commission is having a conversation about “nodes,” or centers of activity. Could this be an agricultural node, where agriculture would be the center point of the region? The city is working with consultant Sharon Murray, of Front Porch Community Planning & Design, to explore the idea. Sound familiar? The “nodes” discussion stemmed from Paul Dreher, the city’s former consultant for Form Based Code.

Heilenbach said he would like to begin construction no later than summer of 2017.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent