Promoting wineries and farm breweries in Montgomery County

Have you had the chance to visit one of Montgomery County’s new wineries or breweries? Thanks to visionary entrepreneurs and a commitment from County government that has resulted in reduced regulatory barriers and increased incentives, a new industry is beginning to thrive here.

These small businesses create good middle-income jobs in manufacturing, marketing, and sales. They have helped revitalize urban districts such as Silver Spring, bring life to industrial districts in Rockville, and create destination experiences in our farmland communities such as Poolesville, Laytonsville, Dickerson, and Brookeville.

After resolving zoning and regulatory barriers in our commercial areas, the next important step is to establish a reasonable framework in more rural areas for wineries and for farm operations to establish breweries, cideries and distilleries.

I support allowing farm operations to open these business because:

  1. Making beer, wine, cider, spirits has historically been an accessory agricultural activity— farmers brought not only grain or produce but also beer or whiskey to market. We can return this production if we establish laws to enable it, rather than continuing to support laws that stifle local production and thereby advantage large-scale corporate production.
  2. Allowing this use is helping a new generation to return and thrive as business owners in our agricultural reserve. You can see the creativity and energy these young cultivators and creators are bringing to the job. Having this opportunity makes farming more viable which will reduce pressures to sell for residential development or sell to corporate farming conglomerations.
  3. These businesses enhance the quality of life of our residents and make Montgomery County a better place to live. Have you spent a Saturday afternoon at one of our farm breweries or wineries? It is an experience you don’t want to miss.

Accordingly, I introduced zoning changes (ZTA 18-03). I thank Craig Rice for joining as co-lead. I appreciate Councilmembers Floreen and Leventhal’s supportive work on the ZTA at the PHED committee and Councilmembers Hucker, Katz, and Navarro for joining as co-sponsors. The ZTA seeks to carefully balance the opportunity to support these businesses with our commitment to preserve the agricultural heritage of the County.

The core of the proposal is to allow these businesses as accessory to a farm operation. In other words, the primary use of the land or property must be agricultural, but a brewery can be an accessory business that supports the farm.

ZTA 18-03 enjoys wide support from a diverse group of stakeholders, including the Montgomery County Farm Bureau, the Montgomery Agricultural Producers, the Montgomery County Agricultural Advisory Committee, Montgomery County Agricultural Preservation Advisory Board, the Montgomery County Office of Agriculture, the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, the Montgomery County Food Council, the Maryland Breweries and Wineries Associations, the Maryland Distillers Guild, and many individual members of the community.

The ZTA has been the subject of public hearing and two committee worksessions. It will come before the full Council in September 2018 for final action. I invite you to learn more and consider sending your thoughts to the Council by emailing

If you would like to read more about some of the new wineries and breweries that are growing roots in our farmland areas, here are some references for Black Ankle, Old Westminster, Rocklands, Waredaca, Brookeville Beer Farm, and Elder Pine.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office directly at or 240.777.7964.


The Council Connection — housing affordability (cont’d)

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

Before we head into the August recess, the Council meets this Tuesday with a full agenda (pdf).

Housing Affordability
After extensive discussion, the Council will take action on two significant pieces of legislation that make improvements to our Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program – a visionary law first enacted in Montgomery County in 1973 and since copied in jurisdictions across the Country. The MPDU law requires that 12.5% of all new developments with more than 20 housing units be set aside in the County’s affordable, below-market rate program. The law has produced more than 11,000 affordable units since its creation (though many aged out of their control period before it was extended to 99 years). Bill 34-17 (pdf), sponsored by Councilmember Floreen, would make several changes to update and strengthen the law. Bill 38-17 (pdf), sponsored by Council President Riemer, would increase the requirement to 15% in the areas of the County with the least affordable housing.

Following are some other highlights of the Council’s week:

Renaming New High School After Josiah Henson
Last week, First Lady Catherine Leggett and Council President Hans Riemer sent a letter to the Board of Education (pdf) urging them to name the new high school on Old Georgetown Road in Rockville after Josiah Henson. Reverend Henson, one of the great unsung heroes in the County, lived and labored in the area where Tilden Middle School now stands on what was once Riley Farm.

To learn more about Josiah Henson’s story and why he is such a pivotal historical figure, please attend a special screening of the documentary film “Josiah” on August 10 at 7:00 p.m at the AFI Theatre in Silver Spring. Tickets are available on the AFI Silver Theatre website and at the AFI box office.

Crime Statistics
The Council public safety committee reviewed the County’s 2017 and 2018 year-to-date crime statistics. While crimes against persons have ticked up in 2018, the total number of criminal offenses are trending lower than 2017 (-48.8%). Please see the full update here.

Wireless infrastructure zoning changes
At the request of the County Executive, the Council will introduce zoning changes (pdf) that are designed to speed the deployment of wireless infrastructure in residential areas while maintaining appropriate safeguards for neighbors. The public hearing will be on September 11, beginning at 7:30pm. You can also provide feedback by writing to

Converting streetlights to LED
The Council will vote on an appropriation proposed by the County Executive to begin phase 1 of an ambitious plan to convert all County street lights from high pressure sodium (HPS) to light-emitting diode (LED). LED streetlights use less energy and are easier to maintain, which saves the County (and taxpayers) money.

And finally, an update on the Council’s efforts to promote local craft alcohol production.

Farm Alcohol Production Zoning Changes
In order to improve Montgomery County’s offering of wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries in our agricultural areas, Councilmember Riemer and Rice introduced ZTA 18-03. After making a number of changes suggested from stakeholders, the zoning committee (PHED) unanimously recommended the ZTA to the full Council this week. The full Council will take up these zoning changes in September.


Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President


The Council Connection — zoning changes to incentivize large employers + budget hearings

Council Connection Masthead

Council President’s Message

Introduced to the Council this week, at the request of the County Executive, will be a zoning change that addresses the potential for Montgomery County to host a major corporate headquarters (for example, Amazon HQ2). The proposal does not add density to existing master plans, but does provide for streamlining to reflect the unique needs of a project at that scale. Read more about it here.

This week the Council will hear in-person testimony from residents about priorities for the County’s FY19 operating budget at 5 public hearings. There are waiting lists for the hearings; nevertheless, if you haven’t yet signed up to and want to, use the Council’s website to choose a time slot. The Council will accommodate as many voices as possible.

At Tuesday’s Council session, Councilmembers will have an important discussion about access to pre-k and early education in the County, reviewing studies and hearing from experts. Research demonstrates that quality care in the early years pays of with better educational and social outcomes and more efficient use of school resources. Last year the Council funded a significant expansion of Head Start as well as more child care subsidies; this year the Council will consider new and different approaches.

Also at Tuesday’s Council Session, a zoning text amendment will be introduced that supports breweries, wineries, distilleries, and cideries locating in agricultural areas by creating a new “Farm Alcohol Production” use.

The Council will conduct a number of public hearings on environmental, pre-k and broadband legislation.

Council Committees start their work on the FY19 Operating with the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) reviewing Park and Planning’s budget request.


Hans Riemer Signature

Hans Riemer
Council President


How do I…

…watch a Council committee session online.

Often, big issues are “worked out” at committee before coming to the full Council. If you want to see how that happens, you can watch committee sessions live or on demand. Simply navigate to the Council Meeting Portal. You can view live committee sessions, browse the archives, and search by keyword.


Council voices support for the “Reform on Tap” Act

House Bill 518 supports the State’s breweries by lifting outdated restrictions on selling and purchasing craft beer

ROCKVILLE, Md., February 22, 2018—The Montgomery County Council sent a letter to the chair of the Economic Matters Committee, Delegate Dereck E. Davis, in unanimous support of Maryland House Bill (HB) 518, the Reform on Tap Act. HB 518 would lift restrictions on the selling and purchasing of beer at craft breweries throughout Maryland.

The House Economic Matters Committee has scheduled a hearing for HB 518 on February 23 at 1:00pm.

“Local breweries have a big impact on Montgomery County’s economy,” said Council President Hans Riemer. “Not only have they created good middle-income jobs, they have helped revitalize urban districts such as Silver Spring, bring life to industrial districts in Rockville, and create destination tourism in our farmland reserve communities such as Laytonsville and Brookeville. But there is much more to be done to make our State truly supportive to the industry. Our goal should be for Maryland beer to gain a much larger share of the market, both in Maryland and across the Country. The Reform on Tap proposals accomplish that objective.”

The complete text of the letter is below.

Dear Chair Davis,

I am writing as Council President to express the unanimous support of the Montgomery County Council for HB 518, “Reform on Tap.”

In recent years Montgomery County has been fortunate to benefit from the success of a number of new breweries, including Denizens, Seven Locks, Waredaca, Brookeville Beer Farm, and Saints Row. At least four more breweries will open their doors in 2018 (Silver Branch, Astro Lab, True Respite, and Brawling Bear). Nevertheless, we are presumably at the earliest stages of growth in our industry. Loudon County, by way of comparison, with just one third our population, has more than 30 breweries, cideries, and distilleries.

While our breweries may be small relative to the global corporate giants of the beer industry, they have a big impact on our local economic development. They have helped revitalize urban districts such as Silver Spring, bring life to industrial districts in Rockville, and create destination tourism in our farmland reserve communities such as Laytonsville and Brookeville. Breweries are a key part of our creative economy landscape. They naturally produce placemaking and night-time economy benefits that help us attract and retain talent by providing the quality of life that many employees and employers are looking for.

Our local breweries have also created their own good middle-income jobs in manufacturing, management, marketing, and sales. Statewide studies have shown that Maryland brewers alone will generate nearly a billion dollars in economic impact by 2019, contribute over eleven million dollars in state tax revenue, and capture between 7.6% – 11.5% of all beer sales. Those figures are sure to rise, and it should be our policy goal to see them rise.

That is why we have worked hard to support a brewery industry here, and look forward to its robust long-term growth. Working in partnership with our Maryland Delegation, the County has taken many steps to support breweries include:

  • Exempting breweries from water and sewer connection fees
  • Expanding a County economic development incentive program (a grant to defray the cost of new leases) to include breweries
  • Allowing breweries as a primary use in commercial and industrial zones
  • Allowing craft breweries to self-distribute
  • Reducing and/or eliminating food-to-alcohol ratios

These reforms, when taken as a whole, have made Montgomery County and the State much friendlier to local production. Many entrepreneurs in the sector call Montgomery County “the best place in the region” to open a business. But there is much more to be done to make our State truly supportive to the industry. Our goal should be for Maryland beer to gain a much larger share of the market, both in Maryland and across the Country. The Reform on Tap proposals would accomplish that objective.

Accordingly, the Montgomery County Council urges the General Assembly to adopt the business-friendly reforms in HB 518. Thank you for your careful consideration of our views.

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