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Planning Commission approves Dust Bowls brewing, tasting facility
Dust Bowl
Dust Bowls new site will be 30,000 square feet and feature brewing, bottling, storing, and shipping operations as well as business offices, a tasting room and self-guided tours. - photo by Journal file photo

Bigger is better, at least for Dust Bowl Brewing Company and the citizens of Turlock, they say.

On Thursday evening the Turlock Planning Commission approved a Conditional Use Permit to allow Dust Bowl to build a roughly 30,000 square foot brewery and operations building on the Westside of Highway 99 at the intersection of Fulkerth Road and Dianne Drive. The new facility will house the company’s brewing, bottling, storage, shipping, and business operations which will be open 24 hours a day. However, the project is not all work and no play. There will also be a tasting room, or retail visitor center, with a large patio area and the company intends to allow self-guided tours of the brewing process.

“They have a vision of maintaining that agricultural history of Turlock while speaking to newer wineries and breweries that have visited,” said City Planner Adrienne Werner when presenting the industrial but modern aesthetics of the drafted buildings.

The expansion is slated to be developed in two parts on the 5.4 acre property with a potential entertainment venue to be added at a later time.

Dust Bowl was granted a Conditional Use Permit for their property but with one special caveat. With the blessing of City Attorney Phaedra Norton the commissioners approved the amendment of a sentence in the permit to allow Dust Bowl to expand in the future that may allow the staff to approve the plans rather than coming before the commission again.

“This is an issue we have not had to deal with before,” explained Norton.

Norton noted that were an amendment made to the municipal code, or zoning ordinance within it, it could potentially expedite the process in the future should Dust Bowl choose to expand within reasonable expectations.  The resolution states, “Any expansion or future development of the site, including Phase II, will require an amendment to this Conditional use Permit and approval by the Planning Commission.” However, under Norton’s direction the commission approved adding the provision, “unless the Turlock Municipal Code is amended to allow review by the Minor Discretionary Permit process” which is a staff level review. Should Dust Bowl choose to expand, they may not need to undergo the lengthy process of scheduling a time to appear before the commission.

“It’s taken a while to get to you guys; you guys are busy,” joked Dust Bowl owner Brett Tate.

Other than the concerns of time constraints, the commission and Dust Bowl agreed that the permit was slightly restricting in its language.

“A project of this size is extremely difficult to see exactly how it’s going to play out on five acres in the future… it’s hard to mesh all the things together,” said Tate, assuring the commissioners that any expansion would not be a radical departure from the structure proposed Tuesday night. “We’re so true to our brand it’s almost kind of ridiculous.”   

Although the item was unanimously passed by the commissioners some opposition was voiced by concerned Fulkerth Road neighbors. Nineteen properties within a 500 foot radius were given 30 day notice of the Planning Commission meeting and two appeared at the meeting to voice concerns. While both were in support of Turlock’s economic development, there was anxiety over the 24 hour operations as well as the expected increase in traffic, noise levels, and glaring lights.

Due to the retail, entertainment, and production components of the facility the community-commercial zoned property is “kind of a hybrid” explained Werner.

Mike Pitcock did assure one neighbor that Dust Bowl would be reimbursing the City for landscaping measures such as expanding Fulkerth Road to its full width for safety reasons. Dianne Drive is also presently undergoing remodeling as well.

Neighboring property owner Larry Smith of Smith Chevrolet welcomed the Dust Bowl expansion and assured those neighbors with concerns that he has “a high degree of faith that the owners are excellent people who will do the right thing.”

Tate also stated that Dust Bowl has committed to a brewing package with an Italian company who is producing all of the equipment, the company’s first venture in the United States.

“It’s their first brew house in the United States and it’s going to be their baby. You’re going to have a lot of people coming here that would not normally,” said Tate.

Owner Brett Honoré said Dust Bowl is slated to break ground in March and open in November of 2015.

“But I say break ground in February and open in August,” quipped Tate.

A downtown hotspot for years, the downtown taproom and eatery portion of Dust Bowl Brewing Company is just one segment of the brewery’s operation. Founded in 2009, Dust Bowl has been brewing beer at a 3,000 square foot facility in Turlock’s Industrial Park that allows the company to produce roughly 4,000 barrels of beer annually. With their permit approved the local craft beer company will now be able to brew nearly 33,000 barrels of beer a year.