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Bluemont Residents Lash Out At Brewery Owner

© Leesburg Today - 09/22/2015

It was billed as a meeting at which Bluemont residents could ask questions-and some did. Others, though, communicated with sentences ending in exclamation points instead of question marks.

And so little was decided about whether a planned farm brewery on Foggy Bottom Road will be able to coexist with those who would rather proprietor Marty Dougherty pitch his pints.

At issue is B Chord Brewing Co., which Dougherty wants to open on a 26-acre farm where he also plans to live. He would be starting the venture under the auspices of state and Loudoun County regulations that allow small beer-making operations on farms so long as crops grown on-site are used in the brewing process.

""One of the things I hear is that I'm building a bar,"" said Dougherty, known for founding wireless broadband firm Roadstar Internet Inc., ""and I'm not building a bar. I'm building a farm brewery. And my farm brewery is going to be making fresh beer, using fresh ingredients, if not grown on our farm, then grown on farms nearby.""

Nonetheless, some of Dougherty's neighbors are none too pleased with the idea of having an alcohol-based business in their midst. They have concerns about safety, traffic and whether B Chord could wreak havoc with groundwater, and they made up most of the crowd of about 80 people Sept. 15 at the Bluemont Community Center.

County Supervisor Janet S. Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) organized the meeting so that Dougherty could present his concept of B Chord and take questions. However, the businessman didn't get to complete his presentation, and many in the audience didn't seem like they wanted to hear it anyway.

Several wanted guarantees about the impact the brewery would have on Bluemont.

""My front door is 30 feet from the now-often dusty Foggy Bottom Road where I've lived for nearly 50 years,"" said Marvin Watts. ""Considering that I am recovering from lung cancer, do you guarantee that my life will not be degraded by dense traffic-and noise-and therefore dense dust generated by your brewery ambition?""

Then when Dougherty said that he couldn't guarantee anything, Watts piped up again: ""So in fact you do not really care about my welfare?""

Later, Kate Raines said that she and her neighbors are worried that the brewery will ruin the peace and tranquility in Bluemont, and that they want guarantees that that won't happen.

""That's what we are looking for right now,"" she said.

And a few speakers after that, Scott Bessette queried Dougherty on the amount of insurance he is carrying on his business.

The businessman said he didn't have the dollar figure in front of him but that he would be glad to show his neighbor the policy.

That didn't seem to be enough for Bessette, though. And when Clarke said that Dougherty was taking the risk in terms of liability, Bessette disagreed.

""No. No,"" he said. ""With all due respect, I'm carrying the risk because I want to know exactly what he values my children's lives and my property at.""

After hearing all of the comments, Clarke, at a Board of Supervisors meeting the next day, repeated some of the concerns and seemed to validate them.

""So somehow, some way, we've got to figure out a way to address this,"" she told her colleagues.

Commercial Locations To Get New Look

While county supervisors are wrestling with how to deal with neighborhood concerns about rural farm breweries, they also are looking to expand opportunities for craft brewers in eastern Loudoun.

Last week, they took steps to begin examine zoning rules to determine the best commercial areas in which breweries could locate. Currently, the ordinance does not provide special rules for the manufacturing and sale of craft beverages. That means they are only permitted in industrial parks or as accessory uses to restaurants. The staff report highlights two concerns: that industrial parks aren't suited for retail-like customer traffic and that small craft brewers can't afford to run full-service restaurants.

If the board moves ahead with the study, the changes likely wouldn't be considered until early next year.

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