Dover resolves zoning issue with brewery

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The city of Dover will allow Fordham & Dominion Brewery to continue to operate as it has since it opened for business in 2009, hosting permitted public events on its property off Horsepond Road. (Delaware State News photo/Marc Clery)

DOVER — It’s back to business as usual for the Fordham & Dominion Brewing Co., even though in reality, nothing ever really changed.

A resolution was reached between city officials and the brewery on Friday.

The city will allow the brewery to continue to operate as it has since it opened for business in 2009, hosting permitted public events on its property off Horsepond Road.

The city of Dover’s planning office had sent a letter in early June to the Fordham & Dominion. The planners stated the brewery would have to limit the number of public events it hosted each year to five starting July 1 due to zoning ordinance issues.

That limit is gone — for now.

“We sat down and we listened and they listened to us and we all got to a better place,” said Dover City Council

Timothy Slavin

Timothy Slavin

President Timothy Slavin. “They’re going to be able to hold events just as they were and we’re going to look at our zoning.

“We gave the brewery clear passage to host their events as they have for the next few months and then we’ll take a deep dive into the zoning classifications in the city.”

Ryan Telle, marketing director for the brewery, attended the Friday meeting with city officials but was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Fordham & Dominion has become known for hosting events such as the R2Hop2 Beer and Music Festival, Cheesetoberfest, beer release parties, brewery tours and fundraisers.

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen said the issue between the city and brewery put a misdirected bad light on the relationship between the city and local business owners.

“We are not anti-business. We took a bad hit,” Mayor Christiansen said. “I want to make something very clear: The city of Dover encourages all of the businesses that operate in the city to be as successful as they can be and have events that showcase all of the great things that Dover has to offer.

“So (Fordham & Dominion) will continue to brew beer and continue the fine events that they have on their grounds.”

The zoning issue with the brewery was a head-scratcher for many.

On June 6, Dover city planner Ann Marie Townshend sent the brewery a letter stating it would have to limit the number of public events it hosts each year to five due to safety concerns with Dover Air Force Base and overlay zone regulations that had been in place since 2001.

Ms. Townshend said Fordham & Dominion is located within an “Airport Environs Overlay Zone” and an “Accident Potential Zone” since it is located about a mile away from the end of the northeast/southeast runway at Dover Air Force Base.

She added, “Over time, Fordham has begun to hold temporary events at the brewery that are characterized as public assemblies. Such events include festivals, release parties, and other community fundraisers. Unfortunately, these events, and their increasing frequency, are inconsistent with the requirements of the Airport Environs Overlay Zone.”

According to the zoning ordinance, the Airport Environs Overlay Zone is “expressly intended to protect the public health, safety, and welfare … [and] preserve and promote the integrity of the mission of the Dover Air Force Base as a matter of local, regional and national importance, by regulating development and land use within specific areas surrounding the DAFB.”

Fordham & Dominion hosts two large events each year and several other fundraisers and beer release parties. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Fordham & Dominion hosts two large events each year and several other fundraisers and beer release parties. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Several houses and businesses, including the Delaware State News office, are located within the Airport Environs Overlay Zone.

The last major accident involving an aircraft at the base occurred April 3, 2006, when a C-5B Galaxy headed for Spain and then on to Kuwait crashed into a field within one of the “Accident Potential Zones” south of the base.

Several of the 17 military personnel aboard the plane suffered injuries; there were no fatalities.

Mr. Slavin said there was an obvious misunderstanding over the issue, saying the zoning ordinance wasn’t just about airplanes crashing from the sky but was more about controlling the types of business growth that can occur in close proximity to the base.

State representatives Andria Bennett, D-Dover; Trey Paradee, D-Cheswold; Sean Lynn, D-Dover; and Bill Carson, D-Smyrna, sent a letter to the Ms. Townshend on June 21 opposing the restrictions on public gatherings at the brewery, saying they were “particularly puzzled by the timing of this action.”

The letter went on to state: “In our opinion, there is more at stake for Fordham & Dominion as a result of your recent administrative directive than just losing a few evening parties and beer tastings. Public events at the brewery are a key component of its business, a major draw for its customers, and a fixture of tourism and entertainment in Dover.”

After meeting with Mr. Telle on June 29, Mr. Slavin said it’s easy to see that the business has had to evolve over time.

“It’s not just about conducting a bottling business any more for them. It’s a wide-ranging enterprise and they need to have social events to help promote their products,” Mr. Slavin said. “It is an ever-changing marketplace and we’re glad to have a business such as theirs in Dover.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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