Neighbor questions impact of proposed brewery at old Coca-Cola plant in Staunton
Economy, Local

Neighbor questions impact of proposed brewery at old Coca-Cola plant in Staunton

Chris Graham
coca-cola plant staunton
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There might finally be a new use for the old Coca-Cola bottling plant on North Augusta Street in Staunton. But does a craft brewery with a tasting room and a restaurant fit the surrounding neighborhood?

“I’ve lived here for 20 years. This has primarily been an old school, long-term Black neighborhood with great neighbors, great people. But in the past few years, we’ve seen some gentrification in this neighborhood, and the long-time residents are upset about that, and I can understand why,” said Christie Craig, who has lived in a home across the street from the building, which a Crozet businessman, John Schoeb, wants to repurpose into being a home for a new craft brewery.

Schoeb and his business partner, Andrew Massina, have had success with Pro Re Nata Brewery in Crozet, which opened in 2015 and has grown to include a brewery and taproom, a main taproom and a premier music venue.

The building that Schoeb wants to turn into a craft brewery on the edge of the downtown district in Staunton has been vacant since the late 1970s, when Coca-Cola moved its local bottling operations to a location in Jolivue, about a mile south of the city on U.S. 11.

The city has been looking for years to find a way to breathe new life into the long-vacant building, which sits at the intersection of North Augusta Street and Churchville Avenue, across the street from a thriving residential neighborhood and the Staunton Public Library.

The lack of on-site parking at the location is a big issue for any possible reuse. The final addition to the property in the early 1960s took away any room on the parcel for on-site parking, and a 1969 update to the city zoning code made the property legally non-conforming to the city’s parking requirements.

But a 2009 update to the city code added exceptions to the required off-street parking requirements to exempt commercial buildings with little or no front, side or rear setbacks.

“At that time, the property became exempt from providing off-street parking. As a result, no off-street parking can be required for this project,” according to a report on the proposed project written by Senior Planner Rodney Rhodes and City Planner Timothy Hartless, which also notes that “it does not appear that the applicant has any definitive plan for providing parking.”

The report from the planners also acknowledges issues raised by Craig with the potential for more traffic in the immediate area.

“If the rezoning is approved, the city will need to consider traffic flow, safety at pedestrian crossings, and available on-street parking in the area,” Rhodes and Hartless wrote in their report. “At this stage of the redevelopment plan, production of beer and a tasting room should not have tremendous impact on the area, but in the future, if a restaurant is added, there could be additional traffic, higher demand for parking, and more pedestrian activity at the surrounding intersections.”

Despite the concerns, the planners are recommending approval of the project, which will come before the Staunton Planning Commission on Thursday.

The one informal caveat in the planners’ report: “Staff encourages the applicant to explore off-street parking options as the business develops.”

The Planning Commission, and ultimately Staunton City Council, are only being asked to weigh in on a request from Schoeb to rezone the 709 N. Augusta St. parcel from B-1 Local Business District to B-2 General Business District.

The reason for the rezoning request is related to the plans from Schoeb to produce beer at the location, a use that is not permitted under the current B-1 zoning.

Per the city code, the B-2 designation allows for “processing and manufacturing establishments that are not objectionable because of smoke, odor, dust, or noise, but only when such processing and manufacturing is incidental to a retail business conducted on the premises and where not more than 10 persons are employed on the premises in the processing or manufacturing activities.”

Craig, the across-the-street neighbor, has questions about the impact of bringing an on-site beer production operation adjacent to a long-standing residential neighborhood.

“What is this going to do to the water, to the air, and the noise from the production and from the music, if they end up doing that here with the restaurant? These are all things we’re going to have to deal with here,” Craig said.

The staff report from Rhodes and Hartless does note that the tasting room and restaurant uses are already permitted under the current B-1 zoning for the property, though there is a conflict with the designation for the location in the city’s most recent Comprehensive Plan update, which was adopted in 2018.

Under the 2018 Comp Plan update, the area including the former bottling plant is designated as “Neighborhood Residential.”

“While the proposed rezoning is not consistent with this designation, it is consistent with historic use of the property as a bottling plant,” the planners wrote. “Staff believes that this area should be evaluated during the next Comprehensive Plan update for a potential change. Given its location on North Augusta Street, the surrounding business uses, and the size of the building, business would be a more appropriate designation.”

Craig, in the meantime, is working to get her neighbors to reach out to city leaders to let them know that what is being planned will have a negative impact on their daily lives.

“What bothers me the most about this is that notice didn’t get sent out to residents in the neighborhood about this rezoning request. I don’t know that a lot of people here know that this is even being planned. It just seems kind of cagey to go about this in this way,” Craig said.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page,