The Charlottesville Planning Commission has recommended approval of zoning changes that would allow craft breweries to expand in the city.

“A change in the code would allow growing breweries in the city, such as Three Notch’d Brewing Company, to stay in town and not contemplate moves outside the jurisdiction to seek growth,” wrote George H. Kastendike V, chairman and CEO of Three Notch’d, in an Oct. 6 letter to city economic development officials.

Kastendike was among the people on hand at a public hearing Tuesday to discuss the matter. At issue is a definition in the zoning ordinance that restricts the volume a microbrewery can produce.

“A brewery operation that exceeds 15,000 barrels of production a year is [currently] classified as a beverage bottling facility, and can only be located in industrial zones,” said city planner Brian Haluska.

City Council initiated the zoning review in October.

In the letter, Kastendike said Three Notch’d is negotiating with owners of the Ix property within the city’s Strategic Investment Area for space south of the Downtown Mall.

“We have discussed in detail our vision of building an in-city refuge complete with outdoor green space for large family gatherings, German-style biergartens, a tasting room with a brew-pub, healthy food, outdoor views and also a production facility capable of growing our small business,” Kastendike said.

However, the city’s zoning code currently would not allow Three Notch’d to increase production to the 30,000 barrels that Kastendike said he hopes to produce by the end of 2019.  They are currently producing less than 15,000 barrels a year.

Kastendike said the company could eventually provide up to 100 jobs in the center of Charlottesville.

Suggested zoning changes reviewed by the commission would add a “micro-producer” definition that would not only encompass breweries but also would allow small wineries and distilleries to operate under the code.

Haluska said two distilleries are licensed by the Virginia ABC to operate within city limits, though neither has opened yet.

However, breweries under this new category would also be limited to 15,000 barrels a year while distilleries and wineries would be capped at 5,000 gallons a year.

To accommodate the expansion of either Three Notch’d or other breweries, the suggested changes would also add a “small brewery” definition that would limit breweries to no more than 30,000 barrels a year. These would be allowed in certain mixed-use and business district with a special use permit.

Anything over 30,000 barrels a year would have to be in an industrial zone. All liquor, wine and beer producers must report their output to the Virginia ABC. Haluska said the city would not have to do its own investigations.

The strategic investment area is located within the downtown extended zone, which would require the permit.

The current zoning code does not allow beverage producers of any kinds in residential areas nor in the city’s two Neighborhood Commercial Corridor districts. That would not change under the amendments.

The president and head brewer of Champion Brewing Company said in an interview that being able to find a suitable location for a brewery is key to becoming successful.

“I think there is room for growth, though it is quickly becoming a competitive industry in which one must truly stand out,” said Hunter Smith. “One of the challenges in the city is finding a location, so reviewing available zoning flexibility certainly helps in that regard.”

Champion Brewing Company currently produces about 9,000 barrels per year, but Smith said 90 percent of that is produced at the company’s facility on Broadway Avenue in the Woolen Mills section of Albemarle County.

The city’s C’Ville Brewing Company on West Main Street was established in 2014 and owners identify their operation as a “nano-brewery.”

Next spring, a new operation called Random Row Brewing Company will set up operations at 608 Preston Avenue next to the King Lumber Building, according to their website.

“We are planning on producing between 350 and 500 barrels per year, initially,” said Kevin McElroy, the company’s co-owner and brewer.