Littleton OKs brewery plan

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Roll out the barrel, the gang’s all here.

More specifically, the gang’s all on board with Breckenridge Brewery. Littleton City Council unanimously approved the zoning change that allows Breckenridge to build a 12-acre, $20 million brewery and restaurant on Santa Fe Drive.

Construction should begin this fall on the restaurant — with seating for up to 250 — tasting room, guest accommodations, fermenting building, warehouse, brewhouse, gift shop and more, all designed to attract “beer tourists.” It’s expected to open in the fall of 2014 and employ up to 75 people.

“This has all gone like it was supposed to go, and like it was supposed to happen,” said Ed Cerkovnik, president of BW Holdings LLC, the joint venture between Breckenridge and Wynkoop breweries.

The partnership allows Breckenridge to circumvent a state law that limits how much beer a brewery can make in a year to 60,000 gallons by setting up the facility to act as a “host” for other pubs in the overarching corporation.

Cerkovnik said Breckenridge is currently the 41st-largest brewer in the county.

“We could probably be in the top 25 if we could brew more beer,” he said.

The approval also allows the adjacent Designs by Sundown, owned by longtime Littletonite Michael Hommel, to expand. He’ll employ up to 150 people in peak season.

The two companies coordinated to create a unified site with a rural, agricultural feel. It’s south of Meadowood mobile-home community, which caters to seniors, and north of Wolhurst Landing’s single-family homes. A hops field will line Santa Fe on the east side of the site. On the west, city-owned open space buffers the river from the development.

Heights are limited to 60 feet, shorter than Aspen Grove’s 65 feet, and the buildings are designed to resemble rural farmhouses and barns.

A sticking point is drainage. Charlie Blosten, the city’s director of public works, says it needs a regional solution to accommodate this and future development. The last study was done in 1990, and improvements to Santa Fe since then mean a new study is due. The Urban Drainage and Flood Control District can’t do it until next year, but it recommends an open channel.

Blosten’s preference, and the developer’s, would be an underground channel draining into the open space, which could become a pond or wetlands amenity. In the meantime, the proposal doesn’t outline a plan.

“We don’t know what it is that we should build,” said Blosten.

Douglas Buck, owner of Meadowood, notes the 1990 study put his property in the flood plain of the gulch on the east side of Santa Fe. He agrees that improvements might have fixed that, but he’d still like to be sure.

Those who attended the council’s public hearing were fairly evenly split on the project. Immediate neighbors had the usual concerns about things like odors, views and noise.

“Industrial between two residential areas is wrong for that area,” said Richard Carlson.

Glen Van Nimwegen, the city’s director of community development, said most of their issues are addressed through city code or the specific plan. In particular, he noted all the smells and steam coming from the brewery will be from natural ingredients, and there shouldn’t be too many given that the company’s high-tech equipment captures up to 98 percent of the vapor.

Mayor Debbie Brinkman lives in Wolhurst adjacent to the site, where Walmart wanted to build in 2006. Her leadership of the anti-Walmart faction launched her political career, but she said this is the perfect plan for the land.

“This is more lush, more plush,” she said. “This is, in my opinion, a very happy ending.”