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Kittleman: Manor Hill Brewing operations 'deemed acceptable'

After reviewing concerns from Ellicott City's Manor Lane residents, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman says the alleged permit violations against the neighboring Manor Hill Brewing do not align with previous findings by Department of Planning and Zoning officials.

Residents wrote a five-page letter to Kittleman and the County Council on April 29, with the support of nearly 40 residents urging officials to revoke the brewery's visiting hours that, neighbors say, have caused traffic concerns on the otherwise quiet road.

The County Council has not responded as of Monday afternoon, but on May 10, Kittleman responded to resident and letter-writer Joan Pontius, stating that planning and zoning representatives actively investigated their claims, but that any possible issues were studied prior to granting the farm brewery permit in December 2013.

"At the time of permit submission, a professionally engineered plan was submitted," the letter read, "and DPZ determined that the farm brewery operation complied with all of the permit criteria …"

The letter also explained that Manor Lane is not a through-road, and ends next to the brewery. Zoning officials had determined that allowing 50 people at once on the property would be "relatively low."

Manor Hill opened to the public in January under a Class A farm brewery license. Although regulations allows public access 69 hours a week, owner Randy Marriner said he limited visitation to 20 hours a week, Friday through Sunday.

Marriner and his wife, Mary, own Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia and purchased the farm in 2011. After changes in county legislation and existing zoning laws in 2013, the Marriners received a $200,000 loan the following year through the county's Economic Development Authority's Catalyst Loan Program.

In an interview May 23, Marriner said he had read the residents' letter as well as the county's response.

"I'm trying not to further fan the flames. The beat goes on," Marriner said. "Unfortunately, their interpretation of regulation and law is inaccurate; it's what they want it to say, not what it says. That truly is unfortunate."

Kittleman's letter also discussed a resident-conducted traffic study held on Sunday, April 24 between 11:50 a.m. and 5:03 p.m. during the brewery's public hours. The study concluded that 208 vehicles were counted entering or leaving Manor Lane, with 159 "going to or coming from the brewery."

"I reviewed this data with the Department of Public Works and DPZ and both departments indicate that these trips are within the use of levels deemed acceptable at the time of the permit issuance," Kittleman's letter read. "These numbers also do not warrant a traffic control device."

Despite the county's assessment and continuation to monitor the business, residents say they are still saddened by the conflict and seek a resolution.

Sara Domerchie, a 13-year Manor Lane resident, said she and her family have become limited to their recreational activities since the brewery's opening, steering clear of frequented walks and bike rides.

"Unfortunately, with the many brewery-related vehicles traveling the road and with the concern that the customers leaving the brewery may be driving under the influence, we no longer feel safe using the road for such recreational pursuits," Domerchie wrote in an email. "The Marriners have selfishly and negatively impacted the entire neighborhood for their own personal gain. "

Marriner said he will continue to cooperate to keep brewery operations within the legal boundaries.

"The state and the county are my partners in this, lending and granting me funds for our operation," Marriner said. "To think that we're going to run an illegal enterprise is ludicrous. If you look at who I am and what I've done my whole career, I don't think I need to apologize."

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