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City strikes deal with brewery

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    The planned brewery, built by Austin-based Circle Brewing Company, would be located on the north side of Elgin at the corner of Louise Street and Lexington Road.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Elgin municipal court Presiding Judge Amanda Carter (right) leads (from left to right) new Ward 4 council member Forest Dennis, re-elected Ward 1 council member Mary Penson and newly-elected Ward 3 council member Brad Jones (as son Case watches) in the oath of office. Re-elected Ward 2 council member Juan Gonzales was absent last Tuesday.

A craft brewery is two steps closer to bringing their business to Elgin after the city council approved a zoning amendment and an economic agreement at last week’s meeting.

Circle Brewing Company is an Austin-based brewery that was founded in 2010. The brewery’s new proposed facility will be located on 22 acres at the intersection of Louise Street and Lexington Road on the land previously planned for the Elgin Agrarian Community.

The project will occur in two phases. First, the company will build a brewhouse and a tap room, as well as a guest parking lot. Later, they will develop 7.5 acres of the land to grow grain; Circle Brewing Company co-founder Ben Sabel told the council that the company wants to simplify their brewing process by growing the ingredients for their craft beer on their land. The rest of the land would be left as undeveloped as possible, with the exception of some walking trails.

“This community won’t turn its nose up at a brewery, I think,” Mayor Chris Cannon said. “You have to have one in Central Texas now to be cool.”

First, the council approved an ordinance zoning the planned brewery’s site as a planned development district. Elgin Economic Development Corporation director Owen Rock said the planned development district was approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission after working with city staff and Circle Brewing Company.

The city and the brewery are also working with the Mary Christian Burleson Foundation, as the site sits on the remaining 22 acres of Mary Christian Burleson’s land. The oldest house in Elgin, which is under renovation, sits on one acre that is carved out of the brewery property.

Marc Holm, member of the board of directors for the Mary Christian Burleson Foundation, said the foundation will continue collaborating with the brewery.

“It’s going to be a win-win for both of us,” Holm sad.

Next, the council approved a 380 economic development agreement with the brewery. A 380 agreement, named after chapter 380 of the Texas local government code, lets a municipality offer loans and grants in order to promote economic development and commercial activity.

This specific agreement would provide for a project to widen Lexington Road and install a turn lane and a three-way stop to improve traffic safety.

“A three-way stop is much appreciated there,” said council member Sue Brashar, who represents the area near the planned brewery.

In exchange for the brewery funding these road improvements, the city will reimburse Circle Brewing Company with the sales tax that the company generates until the project is paid for. Rock said the project is expected to cost $150,000 and it should take between four and five years to reimburse this amount.

“It’s much like the (tax increment reinvestment zone), it’s all performance-based,” Cannon said.

OFFICIAL ELECTION RESULTS APPROVED

The council approved the official results of this spring’s local elections, and the council members, new and returning, were sworn into office.

Brad Jones defeated James Mark Jones for the contested Ward 3 council seat left open by Phillip Thomas, who did not seek re-election. A total of 123 votes were cast in the city council race; Brad Jones received 107 votes, while James Mark Jones received 16 votes.

Forest Dennis ran unopposed to fill the Ward 4 seat vacated by Neil Beyer, who did not seek re-election in order to spend more time with his family. Ward 1 council member Mary Penson and Ward 2 council member Juan Gonzales were up for re-election this year, but drew no challengers.

Before he left the meeting, former Ward 3 council member Phillip Thomas was recognized by Cannon for his time on the council. Thomas was asked to fill the vacant seat left by Cannon when he stepped down to run for mayor in 2016. Thomas did not seek re-election because his family is looking into live outside of Elgin city limits, making him ineligible to serve on the council.

FEE WAIVED FOR VETERANS’ DAY PARADE

The council unanimously approved waiving the fees associated with the third annual Veterans’ Recognition Parade, hosted by the local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and to be held in November.

During the previous meeting on May 7, the council approved a new ordinance establishing requirements for parades in Elgin. The previous parade ordinance was much shorter than the new one; among other changes, this new ordinance outlines procedures for applying for a parade permit and requires parade permit applicants to pay a fee to the city for the cost of overtime for extra city staff, such as police, to shut down roads and clean up after the parade.

On April 2, the council considered and granted the waiving of parade fees—over a couple thousand dollars each—to the Juneteenth Festival committee for the Juneteenth Parade and the Elgin Chamber of Commerce for Western Days. During this meeting, the council also considered waiving or reducing the fees for the Veterans’ Recognition Parade. This parade costs an estimated $2,200, city finance director Charles Cunningham said.

“That cost has always been there, we’ve just identified it now,” Cannon said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Jessica Bega said, depending on different factors as time goes on, the city should weigh the costs of the parades and find a balance between waiving and charging fees, and suggested the city regularly reassess the number of parades they can afford. Cannon agreed, saying this conversation should take into consideration how the fees grow as an event grows larger.

During this meeting, American Legion Commander Post 295 John Quagliani again spoke to the city council before the waiver was approved, requesting that the city council waive the fees. He outlined the various ways the American Legion and VFW support the community, from supporting local youth organizations to providing financial assistance to area veterans.

“We work with ‘every penny is counted for,’” Quagliani said. “We do not have any excess funds, so we appreciate any opportunity to provide the city with a wonderful parade.”