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Anyone have any insight as to what the zoning requirements are for a distillery? I know my local NY agencies get involved but I thought there might a standard or uniform minimum (e.g. C-1??)

There is no uniform minimum. It can vary from county to county. In fact, in my county it varied by who I spoke with. They did not have anything on the books and in the end it was a judgement call. They required at least Light Industrial in my case.

I spent at least six months just finding a location for my distillery that would work with the county and the fire marshall. In the end I signed a lease before I knew if the building would work or not. I needed the address to move forward on my federal license and was not willing to wait any longer. I put a clause in the lease that let me out if any governmental agency deemed the location unsuitable for the intended purpose.

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In New York State there is no "code" governing distilleries on a local basis, just the ABC law and the STATE LIQUOR AUTHORITY regulations and they only address local zoning on the minimum level by requiring applicants to notify their local municipality of their intent to apply for a license 30 days prior to submitting the application, and to submit a copy of the notice with the application. This enables local municipal types to comment or react.

The more important point is that New York is a "right to farm" state. If your facility is on a farm, or in an agricultural district (check with your County Planning Department to see if you're in an Ag District) and otherwise qualifies as a "farm" the designation trumps many local zoning and much of the Uniform State Building Code. For instance, a Farm can erect accessory structures without going through the local Planning Board. Farms can spread effluent on their land at "agronomic levels" (check with Cornell Cooperative Extension about soil tests and agronomic levels); at those levels the farm is exempt from the requirement to file a land spreading notification or from requiring a permit to spread. Being on a farm, and holding a Farm Distillery license also allows the distiller to sell product direct to consumers at the distillery (the A-1 and other distillery licenses prohibit such sales).

Your farm does not have to be large. The "farm operation" includes all lands leased by the farm for the propagation of crops, so you can have 7 acres and lease nearby farmland and grow corn or rye or such as those and use them to supplement your stock of grain. Same for fruit.

If at all possible, locate your facility on a farm (minimum 7 acres) and grow SOMETHING that you can use in your process that results in generation of minimum $10,000 in revenue to the "farm". Being a farm affords enormous latitude to your operation and gives you the protection (such as it is) of the Ag and Markets Law. It also exempts the distillery from certain permit requirements.


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I'm trying.... I'm really, really trying! We have in total about 4 acres planted in apples and grapes and we plan to add another two in the spring. We hope to complete our applications this year for the Farm distillery as the barn is under construction now.

Ran into a small problem both at the state level and at the town level recently.

We applied for a deer nuisance permit for extra doe tags. Denied by the state. (they are treating everything we plant as their own salad bar)

Our agriculture building permit (NO FEE) was denied by the town. Both denials for the same reason: I am being told that to be a farm, I have to show 10K in revenue for two years to be recognized. Hard to do with a crop that takes 5 years to produce and has only been in the ground for for 1, 2 and 3 years respectively.

I can not find where that 10K rule is listed. The farm Distillery act doesn’t seem to define Farm at all? Additionally, the plan was to use the produce that we harvest for the output of the distillery. I'm having a hard time figuring out if wine or brandy would be considered farm/ag revenue.

Comments appreciated.



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  • 3 years later...

There is no definition of a "farm" contained or referenced in the State code as it relates to distilleries. To be a Farm Operation in NY State you must have at least 7 acres (owned or leased lands) and earn minimum of $10K a year in revenue from farm products sold or land used (say for instance rental fee for someone who is leasing your land for haying). The State Right To Farm Law trumps local zoning in most cases if your land is located in an "Agricultural District", the maps for which are available online, so your local zoning board may not have the authority to deny you a farm permit if you meet State requirements. Any denial may be appealed to the Commissioner of Ag and Markets for determination on a case by case basis. As to the crop, Department of Ag and Markets allows up to three years for a new farm to have a crop, so if you are in the growing process with crops in the ground you may get some certifying letter from Ag and Markets to verify that you are a farm operation. You should also register as a "farm operation" with Ag and Markets to bolster your case. Take a look at: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AP/agservices/new305/guidance.pdf.

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