YORK, Maine — Taking a cue from neighboring Kittery, York planners are introducing an ordinance that would allow “artisan” businesses like brew pubs, coffee roasters and small bakers to open shop at locations throughout town.
“If we want a small, local business that is going to bring in tourism dollars and feeds the community, this is what this ordinance is going to allow. The goal is to remove barriers that are now in the way,” said Amy Phalon, a planning board member who spearheaded the proposal.
Selectmen are going to be holding a public hearing on the measure on March 23, and will vote afterward whether to forward it to the May ballot. As such, said Phalon, anyone who supports the idea of expanding this kind of business is asked to show his or her support that night.
The ordinance would allow for manufacturing, sales, distribution and on-site consumption of artisanal food and beverages in York Village, York Beach, in most sections of Route 1 including in Cape Neddick, and in most areas of the General Development zones — areas that are not strictly residential, where the businesses would not be allowed.
The businesses would also be allowed in the farm enterprise overlay zone, a zone created to encompass rural parts of York west of Interstate 95. Phalon said the idea here is to allow farm-to-table sorts of businesses, where small-scale farmers can in turn process vegetables or cure meats and sell them in a small retail store.
The business would be allowed to have both a manufacturing and a retail space under one roof, not to exceed 5,000 square feet. Examples include small-batch baking, small-scale cheese production, a small brewery, winery or distillery, small-batch vegetable pickling or small-scale meat or fish curing.
Phalon and colleague Todd Frederick, who formed a planning board subcommittee, said as they researched the proposal, they found uneven zoning in various parts of town. For instance, bottling of beverages is not allowed in York Beach.
“How can you have a brew pub? Unless you bottled your beverages, why bother?” said Phalon.
In other parts of town, there are prohibitions against manufacturing and retailing on the same premises.
“How many hoops would you have to go through if you wanted to start, say, a specialty vinegar business?” she said.
An artisanal food and beverage ordinance has been bandied about in town since last summer, when selectman Torbert Macdonald first introduced a proposal. Macdonald said he was pleased to see it back before the selectmen for inclusion on the May ballot.
“I’m good with it,” he said. “The market signals are out there and the regulatory apparatus was lacking. This will get it going.”
Phalon said the ordinance in broad terms was based on one passed in Kittery several years ago that allowed for, among other businesses, Tributary Brewing Company to open.
Phalon said many communities in Maine and throughout New England already encourage small-scale artisanal businesses.
“Leave York. Go to Portsmouth or Portland or Burlington, Vermont, or Kittery. Take a look at the food businesses popping up everywhere,” she said. “If you like what you see, we can have this in York.”