Schenectady County

Duanesburg adopts agri-tourism zoning

Town hopes for small businesses to retain rural feel
Helderberg Meadworks owner Peter Voelker.
Helderberg Meadworks owner Peter Voelker.

DUANESBURG — The town has adopted a zoning law intended to promote new farm breweries, cideries and other agriculture-based businesses that could bring visitors to town.

It’s part of an effort to both keep the town of 6,100 at the western end of Schenectady County rural and still encourage new small businesses, said Town Supervisor Roger Tidball. Under the new law, farm-based businesses that can attract visitors will be allowed in the agricultural-residential, commercial and light manufacturing zones — most of the town’s land area.

The law adopted in August by the Town Board allows small-scale breweries, cideries, wineries and distilleries to open in the town through a special permit system, meaning they can open as long as they receive approval for their plans from the town Planning Board.

“You see this more and more in small towns, people wanting to open things like breweries and cideries,” Tidball said.

The town has been home to Helderberg Meadworks since 2012, and other farm-based companies are looking at locating in Duanesburg. The zoning change was prompted because new owners are in the process of renovating an 1800s barn on Route 20 near Delanson with the goal of establishing a farm brewery there, once zoning approval is in place.

The state, under initiatives from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has strongly endorsed the agri-tourism concept, including farm-based breweries and wineries as more traditional forms of agriculture have struggled, with much farmland being converted to other uses.

Helderberg Meadworks owner Peter Voelker said he’s working on plans for a tasting room on Route 30, and be believes agritourism zoning will work well for Duanesburg.

“I think that’s perfect for Duanesburg,” Voelker said. “I would love to see more real farms and wineries and that sort of thing. A brewery that grows its own grain I think is ideal. Duanesburg is seen as not necessarily open to big businesses, but it has worked well for me.”

Other local towns are also eyeing the potential of agritourism, which encourages preservation of farmland by creating new uses for what was once traditional dairy farmland. Most small dairy farms have gone out of business since the 1950s, and many of those farms in other places have been converted into housing developments.

Glenville is currently considering the possibility of an agritourism zone in the West Glenville area, where Wolf Hollow Brewing was recently joined by a maple business, and there are plans for a small liquor distillery.

Ray Gillen, Schenectady County’s director of economic development and planning, said he’s met with town officials and worked with several businesses interested in establishing visitor-oriented agriculture businesses in Duanesburg. Some have been successful at farmers markets like the Schenectady Greenmarket and are looking to build on that.

“We’re seeing more activity there, and the other thing in Duanesburg is it has pretty good highway access, with I-88 and Route 20,” Gillen said.

In addition to approving agri-tourism zoning, Tidball said Duanesburg is just starting work on the first update to its comprehensive land use plan in a dozen years. He said the anticipated goals include keeping the town’s atmosphere rural, but also trying to encourage the development of small convenience businesses. “Little things like breweries and mom and pops, we want to have that,” Tidball said.

The town has been growing slowly, adding about 10 new houses per year, Tidball estimated. A few years ago, it got its first supermarket, a Hannaford on Route 20 near the Schoharie County line.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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