AUGUSTA — City councilors voted to allow brewing beer and distilling liquor, as well as warehousing and light manufacturing, within the city’s largest retail complex, the Marketplace at Augusta.

Breweries, distilleries, and bakeries currently aren’t allowed in the zone that encompasses the large north Augusta shopping complex. Councilors unanimously approved a proposal, pushed by local businessman Roger Pomerleau, a partner and developer of the Marketplace at Augusta, on Thursday to allow small breweries, distilleries and bakeries to locate in the Marketplace zoning district, as long as they use less than 5,000 square feet of floor space for manufacturing their products. Space taken up by any associated restaurants or retail operations at such a business would not count toward the 5,000-square-foot maximum.

Pomerleau said he discovered businesses such as brew pubs aren’t allowed at the Marketplace while researching the city’s zoning rules. He said Marketplace officials have been trying to draw a brew pub to the Marketplace for some time, unaware the city’s zoning rules wouldn’t allow one there.

In seeking to be able to host small breweries, distilleries and bakeries at the Marketplace, Pomerleau said, they’re not seeking a manufacturing operation at the Marketplace. Instead, he said they want to be able to attract a brew pub or craft distiller who’d make beverages to be consumed at restaurants attached to their operation, such as at Sea Dog or Sebago brew pubs and restaurants in southern Maine.

Matt Nazar, the city’s development director, said small distilleries, breweries and bakeries are a relatively new use and currently are not allowed in the city’s other major commercial districts, either. He said in a memo to councilors and city administration that if councilors wish, the city staff could look into allowing those uses in other commercial districts in Augusta “to enhance the economic possibilities within the city” and bring such a proposal to the Planning Board.

Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind said the city should consider adding those uses in other commercial zones, not just the zone surrounding the Marketplace.

“I think it would be prudent to ask the Planning Board to take a look at that,” Lind said. “If there is an opportunity, perhaps we could make a change and be ahead of it.”

Also at the request of Pomerleau, councilors voted Thursday to change zoning rules to allow light manufacturing and warehousing businesses to locate at the Marketplace. He said the shopping complex off Civic Center Drive has space in the back of at least one building, the former Linens ‘n Things location next to Home Depot. Its front portion is occupied by retailers — including Dressbarn, the Paper Store and Lane Bryant — but space in the rear portion is unused. Pomerleau said the rear of the building has loading docks and plenty of available parking.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

He said the Marketplace had a potential tenant interested in doing some light manufacturing in that spot, but the shopping center couldn’t accommodate the candidate because zoning rules don’t allow any manufacturing in that zone. The business thus located elsewhere, but still in Augusta.

Some city councilors expressed concern previously that allowing warehousing and manufacturing at the Marketplace could be unfair to other shopping centers in Augusta.

But that is already allowed by zoning where the Turnpike Mall and Augusta Crossing are located, Nazar said, as conditional uses. Those uses, however, are not allowed by zoning that encompasses the plazas on Western Avenue, including the locations of Shaw’s and Kmart. Those two shopping centers are different because they are located closer to the center of the city, Nazar said, and are closer to residential areas.

Pomerleau said the focus of the Marketplace, even with the new uses approved, will remain retail, because that is a far more lucrative use of space than warehousing or manufacturing.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.