In an effort to drive more tourism into the county, the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority of North Carolina has requested an ordinance change for properties in the rural agriculture zoning district to allow for on-site alcohol sales. The reasoning for the change is to try to expand and strengthen the county’s agritourism sector, “a very strong economic driver in Rowan County attracting thousands of visitors annually,” according to a memo sent to the Planning Department from Andrew Abramson, the TDA’s attorney.
“Agritourism guests are afforded the opportunity to participate in typically agrarian activites and to take in a bucolic rural setting they may rarely get to enjoy. In many instances, the operators of the agritourism sites have noted that it would be a significant enhancement to agritourism experience if they could serve alcoholic beverages to adult guests,” the letter continues.
Examples of agritourism sites include farmers markets, Christmas tree farms, pumpkin patches, hayrides, dairies and demonstration farms and tours. Agritourism sites also include any buildings or structures that are located on a farm that are used for public or private events such as weddings, receptions and meetings.
Currently, there is an ordinance in the rural agriculture zoning district that prohibits property owners from lawfully engaging in alcohol sales, but requires them to go through a process to secure a temporary permit for each event to do so. The TDA has requested the planning department change the ordinance, so agritourism property owners don’t have to go through that process time and again. Commissioner Edds reasoned that the permit process was a hindrance for those in the agritourism business.
The commissioners scheduled a public hearing for May 1, which will give residents a chance to come to the county chambers to speak for or against the ordinance change.