Archive for Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Plans for distillery in Leavenworth County progress

March 28, 2007

The Leavenworth County Commission has unanimously approved a change in zoning regulations that adds alcohol distillation in rural areas of the county -- not including bottling, mixing or retail sales -- to uses allowed under a special use permit.

Planning and zoning director Chris Dunn said a rural Leavenworth man who "has had rare success in navigating the difficult federal and state permitting processes" precipitated the change.

Don Fox, originally from North Carolina, said distilling alcohol has been in his family for seven generations. He plans to make whiskey in a building on his property eight miles west of Leavenworth.

In 2003, Fox helped launch another distillery, High Plains Inc., best known as the maker of Most Wanted Vodka, with his son, Seth, before the operation was moved from Leavenworth to its current location in southern Atchison County.

Don Fox approached Dunn with plans for his current venture last month.

His proposed amendment to modify rural zoning requirements passed in the Leavenworth County Planning Commission, 7-1, on Feb. 14 before meeting county commission approval on March 15.

The lone dissenting vote in both votes came from Planning Commission chairman Steven Rosenthal, who, according to Dunn, "didn't think this was something the community needed."

"Planning and zoning has been extremely helpful," Don Fox said. "It was an easy process."

One difference in opinion has been whether the distiller is subject to fees from the county.

"As a value-added agricultural commodity, alcohol is exempt (from any fees)," Don Fox said.

Dunn disagreed.

"Our opinion is that it's not exempt," he said.

Dunn added, however, that an application for a special use permit has been received and that the planning and zoning department now would move ahead with the permitting process.

Fox hopes to be up and running by July 2007.

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