A proposal to open a hard cider brewery in a former church in a residential neighborhood is going to Gardiner City Council for the first time Wednesday night.

The brewery plan is the first application for a new zoning exemption allowing the city to approve some commercial uses in older, nonresidential buildings, such as churches, in the high-density residential district. The Planning Board approved the proposal last week, but it’s up to councilors to decide whether the new business will harm the character of the neighborhood.

The council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

The founder of Lost Orchard Brewing Co., David Boucher, of New Harbor, said the start-up company has made a strong case for the city to allow the business to open in the church. He said he’s looking to become part of the community and help by bringing more companies to the city.

“Hopefully we’ll kind of crack the door open and entice more business owners to come to Gardiner,” Boucher said.

The hard cider brewery would be a unique business that would encourage people to seek out the city, he said.

The former Gardiner Congregational Church building is close to downtown, but it’s bordered on three sides with residential properties. Directly across Church Street from the vacant building is an active church, First Baptist Church of Gardiner.

At least one nearby neighbor, Nate Mitchell, who lives on the other side of the street from the building, is against the proposal.

Mitchell, 84, has said the hard cider brewery would disrupt the tranquility of the neighborhood.

The yellow former church, which was built in 1843, has been unused since the church closed in 2009.

Part of the review by the councilors is deciding whether the project would benefit the city in a way that wouldn’t happen if the building was developed under the current residential zoning restrictions. Councilors passed the new policy in June to allow for the creative reuse of buildings that are no longer economically viable or physically suitable for uses allowed in the districts in which they’re located.

Before the council can approve the plan, it must hold a second public reading of the proposal, according to Nate Rudy, director of economic and community development for the city. If councilors send the proposal to a second reading after their Wednesday meeting, the earliest the plan could be approved is at their Aug. 27 meeting, Rudy said.

Councilors are also scheduled to consider:

• approving a special event permit for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine to use the city’s Waterfront Park and part of Water Street for one of its BikeMaine stops.

• a consent agreement for Gardiner Federal Credit Union to use Brunswick Avenue as the entrance to its proposed site for a new branch building on the corner of Brunswick Avenue and Martson Road.

• accepting the final design of the Highland Avenue project prior to bidding out the construction piece of the project.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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