Heritage Ridge residents voice concerns about distillery

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Homeowners in the Heritage Ridge Subdivision are concerned about plans to locate a new distillery and restaurant on property adjacent to their neighborhood.

“While we understand our city government is busy recruiting industry to the area – and we appreciate that – we have concerns,” said Joe Bradley, president of the homeowners association.

Those concerns center on the city’s efforts to recruit Conecuh Ridge Distillery to Troy. The company, which bottles and sells Clyde May’s Whiskey, plans to build a new distillery, restaurant and tourist venue on nearly 75 acres adjacent to Orion and Braswell streets. The Troy City Council is considering authorization of the purchase of the land for $1.7 million and nearly $2 million in other potential incentives for the company, which has said it will create 50 jobs.

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The city council will consider the creation of a Tourism Development District at their first February meeting to accommodate the distillery, among other potential future projects, and protect adjacent landowners by creating a zoning that won’t allow for typical industrial developments.

A majority of the neighborhood’s 64 homes are represented in the homeowners association, said Earl Ellis, developer and resident. “And there are probably another 45-plus houses in the adjacent areas,” he said.

And while Bradley stressed that the homeowners support the efforts to recruit the distillery, they question the wisdom of locating the industry in an area that adjoins the neighborhoods.

“We have several specific concerns,” he said. Those include the potential for increased traffic on Orion Road and Trojan Terrace; the possibility of both smell and noise associated with the distillery; the possibility of an air-borne fungus which was cited in an Ohio State University study of distillery impacts; and the unknown effect on property values.

“Let’s not discount the possibility of negative economic impact, which could be in the millions of dollars,” Bradley said. “There’s probably $30 million worth of homes near this area. If you have a 10 to 20 percent drop in property values, that’s a negative economic impact of $3 million to $6 million.”

Bradley said homeowners have expressed their concerns during previous council meetings and to elected officials. They plan to continue to address concerns as the proposal moves through the council’s approval process and during any hearings regarding rezoning of the property.

“We’re not trying to make this a personal issue,” he said. “We just thought the people of the community would like to know some of the things we have legitimate concerns about.”

Mayor Jason Reeves addressed some of the homeowners concerns when the council authorized him to complete the project agreement in September 2017.

Reeves said that traffic will come off of Trojan Terrace and trucks will not be going on Orion or Braswell street to access the site. He said the company is also going to limit deliveries to daytime to eliminate noise concerns. As for air quality and smell, Reeves said the air would be unaffected and the smell would be limited to being inside the structure with the vats, where yeast could be smelled.

Reeeves said aesthetics are as important to the company as they are to the residents.

“The company chose this particular site because of the natural beauty with the river and the pond there and all the trees,” Reeves said. There will be a 150-foot buffer from the streets and most of the distillery will be under the crest of the hill. This won’t be concrete and metal either; the distillery will look like a barn-type structure and another building will look like a cabin.”

The Alabama Department of Transportation is expected to contribute another $1.2 million to the project to build a public access road to the site.