The Gardiner City Council is expected to decide at its meeting Wednesday night whether to allow a hard cider maker to open in a former church in a residential area.

Founders of the start-up hard cider company, Lost Orchard Brewing Co., are the first applicants to use a new zoning ordinance approved by councilors in June that allows the reuse of older buildings whose original uses are no longer possible or suitable. The company has been eying the former Gardiner Congregational Church on Church Street since at least the start of the year, but the city’s zoning rules don’t allow most businesses to open in the high-density residential zone.

Councilors approved the plan for a final public hearing after holding the first hearing a month ago. The Planning Board tentatively approved the hard cider proposal in July, but councilors must answer the more subjective question of whether the business should be allowed in the building. If councilors approve the plan, they would be essentially exempting the business from zoning restrictions for the specific uses outlined in its application.

The business could be transferred to new owners, but nothing in the plan can be altered without going through the adaptive reuse overlay project again.

The company’s founder, David Boucher, of New Harbor, said he plans to use three 1,000-gallon fermenting tanks to produce up to 50,000 gallons of hard cider a year. If the company wants to grow, it could look for approval to add up to three more fermenting tanks before eventually shifting the majority of the operation to a warehouse building elsewhere in the city, Boucher said. The company plans to use freshly pressed cider from the Maine Apple Co. in Monmouth and to bottle and package the hard cider on the site.

Boucher also plans to open a tasting room in the former church’s sanctuary next year.

As part of the project, Boucher is looking to restore the former church building, which was built in 1843 and last occupied in 2009.

The purpose of the new zoning policy is to encourage development in large buildings, such as former churches or institutional buildings, that likely wouldn’t happen without the city easing zoning restrictions.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

• hold public hearings and consider approving special event permits for a carnival on the waterfront, the annual Swine & Stein Oktoberfest, the annual Octoberfest Family Fun event and the annual Festival of Trees;

• accept federal money for the Cobbossee Stream sewer interceptor project;

• review the results of a cable ascertainment study;

• consider using some of the city’s $9,493 dividend from its workers compensation insurer to provide employees with a one-time cash bonus;

• consider approving building specifications for 38 Partridge Drive;

• consider issuing a request for proposals for 19 Partridge Drive.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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