Brewing company to operate in former Oregon fire station

Kelly J. Kaczala

        Oregon City Council on Monday unanimously approved a Special Use Exception (SUE) permit for Waterville-based Buffalo Rock Brewing Company to expand its operations and open at the former Oregon Fire Station at the corner of Seaman and Wynn roads.
        It would be the first brewing company to open in the city.
        The Oregon Planning Commission on May 9 recommended to council that it approve a Special Use Permit at the Seaman Road site.
        Troy Burns and his brother Tim, owners of Buffalo Rock Brewing Company in Waterville, were at the planning commission meeting in May and the council meeting on Monday.
        The brew pub will manufacture beer on site and have a pub to serve it, according to James Gilmore, commissioner of Building and Zoning. There will also be food trucks, which require a special use permit because they are not allowed in the same spot day after day, according to the city’s zoning code. Future plans also call for an Air BNB that would allow for short term stays by the public.
Tap room
        Troy emphasized that the brewery will not be a bar, but a tap room.
        “If you’ve been to our facility in Waterville at all, we’re not a bar. I consider it more as a social type club. People don’t come and sit there to get drunk,” said Troy. “They come to enjoy craft beer. What we encourage is communication between people. We want people to come and socialize.”
        Troy said they have had several Oregon residents visit their location in Waterville who were pleased to hear of plans to expand the brewery into Oregon.
        “We are a very family-friendly establishment,” said Troy.
        It is common to see families with young children, as they have games for the kids to play.
        They have live music daily, which is usually acoustic in nature, no full bands. “It is amplified, but not super loud,” said Troy.
        They also do live trivia or music trivia or music bingo for entertainment.
        Troy emphasized it is not a sports bar.
        “We do not have a lot of TVs so people can sit around and cheer on the games. We have one TV that is generally off 95 percent of the time. We don’t want it on. We want people to come and enjoy each other’s time together and get to know each other better. In the last year, I’ve made more friends than I’ve made probably my entire lifetime doing this. It’s truly a treat to enjoy getting to know the community and getting the community to know us.”
        They train their staff to get to know the patrons, to become their friends, and to become a part of the community. They donate a large portion of their profits back to the community, said Troy.
        They maintain reasonable hours – 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, and noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday.
        Inside the former fire station, there will be a large bar area with seating around it, then restaurant-style seating for the remaining area. The back area that is currently a reception hall would be left as is for that purpose. Offices in the building would be maintained for private meeting rooms. Up above, there are currently quarters for the firemen who used to stay there. They have talked about leaving that open and having dancing or yoga classes. There is the possibility for an Air BNB in the future where patrons can stay on the premises and have a brewing experience the next day.
        They are pet-friendly since they do not serve food inside the building, and are not governed by the health department. They currently rotate food trucks. In the spring, they usually have a different truck every day, but in the winter, they will change them out every week.
        The Burns’ do not need a liquor license. They are only required to have an A1C permit for the manufacturing of beer. They have no intention of bringing heavy alcohol onto the premises.
Noise concerns
        At the May planning commission meeting, Rick Orovitz, a member of the commission, expressed concerns about noise impacting nearby neighborhoods. Orovitz said he spoke with officials from the City of Waterville to ask about noise complaints.
        Troy said there was one resident who moved in after they were already up and running who complains non-stop. The biggest complaint was due to an outdoor glycol filter system that made a noise when it clicked on and off, just like an air conditioner. They completely enclosed the structure to reduce the noise. Beyond that, they get an occasional noise complaint, so they close the back garage door at 9:30 p.m.
        The administrative office building behind the fire station will be used for storage initially, but will be taken down at some point.
        There are some asbestos mitigation issues that must be taken care of with the building as well, according to City Administrator Joel Mazur.
        “The city had an asbestos survey and a Phase I Environmental Assessment done, which revealed there were issues related to the property. One of them is asbestos,” he said.
        “It is encapsulated right now, but to tear the building down or do any renovations on the inside, the drywall and joint compound would have to be taken out as friable asbestos-containing material,” he said.
        Also, there was an underground storage tank on the property at one time. “We do have a record of it being removed, but did not receive final closure from the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations, which is a department of the State Fire Marshall’s office. So that is a liability that this business would be taking on.”
        At the planning commission, some residents expressed concerns about the brewery.
        Brian Aiken, of Seaman Road, said he was concerned about safety of residents and children in the area.
        Patrick Flanaghan, Seaman Road, was also concerned about safety. He was worried about foot/vehicle traffic and insufficient parking as well as the safety of residents and children crossing at the traffic light to go to the metropark or wait for the school bus due to the lack of a crosswalk and the poor timing of the traffic light.              
        Public Service Director Paul Roman said there was a four way stop at the location years ago. After a traffic light was installed, things improved. He said that the timing can be adjusted. The construction of a roundabout would be the safest bet.
        The public service department is planning a large waterline replacement project down Seaman as well as Wynn. They are planning a walking path on the Pearson Metropark side and putting in a proper crosswalk will come with that, according to Roman..
        Plans call for the brewery to open within the next 12 months.


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