By Laurel Jackson Callaway
Opelika Observer

Say cheers! The Opelika Planning Commission approved the conditional use of a warehouse in downtown Opelika for a microbrewery at Tuesday’s meeting.

Red Clay Brewing will occupy 12,000 square feet on 1st Avenue in what is known as the Lebanon Art District. Of that, 10,000 square feet will be used for manufacturing and storage, while 1,400 square feet will be designated for seating and tasting.

According to Planning Director Jerry Kelley, construction of the facility is partially ongoing at this time.

During the May 22 work meeting, some concern was expressed over parking and the ability to accommodate patrons coming to the brewery. Kelley addressed that issue on Tuesday.

“We have made the recommendation for further street scape improvements along 1st Avenue between 7th and 8th streets. We also recommend using two areas on 8th Street and 1st Avenue to create 22 extra parking spaces,” Kelley said.

The city’s engineering department has applied for a TAP (Transportation Alternative Program) grant, which would street scape this particular block north of the railroad similarly to what has been done in other parts of downtown. By improving the sidewalks and landscaping, the city hopes to encourage pedestrian travel from other areas of downtown to this developing block.

The commission also gave preliminary and final plat approval for two lots located at the Preston Street Industrial Park. The property, which was most recently used for concrete manufacturing, will be home to TerraVia, a grading contracting business.

In addition to plat approval, the commission also approved TerraVia’s request to rezone 14,500 square feet from R-2 residential zone to a M-1 manufacturing zone. The motion will be presented to the city council for rezoning approval.

In regards to the rezoning recommendation, Kelley said, “This is a less intrusive type of use than the former concrete plant and more environmentally sensitive.”

Commission member Lucinda Cannon did raise a concern. “Is there going to be any type of noise that may be detrimental to the surrounding residents?” she asked.

“I would say the only noises at this facility would be back up sensor alarms on heavier equipment. Other than that, there will be no work transpiring on the property,” said Blake Rice, a representative for the company. “Equipment will be moved in and out to be serviced and maintained, but by and large, it is a very quiet business.”

The commission also:

– approved preliminary and final plats from subdivisions on 4 lots on 28th Street, two lots on Highway 29 two lots on Highway 29 and Lee Road 270 and four lots on Lee Road 146.

– approved conditional use for Trinity Presbyterian Church for the construction of a 15,900 square foot facility.

– continued discussion concerning the 100 foot minimum lot width on the Gateway Corridor.

– approved the recommendation to the city council for the State legislation on joint city and county approval of subdivisions.