The Gardiner City Council has endorsed a proposal to open a hard cider company in a former church, though the Planning Board must wait at least 30 days to issue a final OK.

The Lost Orchard Brewing Co. project is the first to use a new zoning policy passed in June to encourage the reuse of older, nonresidential buildings in residential neighborhoods.

The Planning Board previously approved the plan in July, but the city attorney ruled that the board needs to approve the plan again now that the council has made the zoning change, said City Manager Scott Morelli. The board will meet to review the plan in October after waiting 30 days for the change to go into effect, he said.

Morelli said he anticipates the board will approve the proposal again.

The process has been longer than expected for the applicant, David Boucher of New Harbor, who previously anticipated having hard cider ready by the start of fall.

Morelli said the city will be looking at changing the process in the future so it isn’t as burdensome for applicants.

The startup company has been interested in the former Gardiner Congregational Church on Church Street since at least the start of the year, but the city’s zoning rules don’t allow most businesses in the high-density residential zone.

The company plans to use three 1,000-gallon fermenting tanks to produce up to 50,000 gallons of hard cider a year.

The company plans to use freshly pressed cider from the Maine Apple Co. in Monmouth and to bottle and package the hard cider on site.


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