Watts retrofit: distillery described
March 8, 2006
David Perkins was in whiskey country last week but planned to be back in Utah, with its notoriously stringent liquor laws, by Wednesday, when he approaches Park City officials regarding his blueprints to build a distillery in Old Town.
He is scheduled to appear in front of the Planning Commission for the first time with his application for what is called Quaking Aspen Distillers, a whiskey distillery he wants to build in the historic Watts property, 703 Park Ave.
Last week, Perkins, speaking from Kentucky, told The Park Record he was touring distilleries there for ideas for Quaking Aspen.
"I’m learning a lot . . . At this point in the process, they’re all my friends," Perkins said.
In a deal that was approved by the Park City Council, Perkins late in 2005 won the right to purchase the main buildings on the Watts property from City Hall for just more than $1.4 million. His bid to build the whiskey distillery beat other ideas for the property that the City Council considered.
The purchase is not scheduled to close until after Perkins receives the necessary Planning Commission approvals for the distillery.
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Under the distillery plan, the landmark National Garage facing Park Avenue would store materials and a link between the garage and the Park Avenue-facing house would be where the stills are located, according to a description of the project submitted to the Planning Department.
The Park Avenue house would be where the public enters the distillery, where exhibits will be located and where offices and restrooms will be, the one-page narrative indicates.
Under the plans, the house and the garage would be connected with a new 1,000-square-foot building. The garage would be lifted and placed on a new foundation, the narrative indicates.
Perkins said grains would be mashed and fermented in the garage and then distilled in stills that would be installed in the space connecting the garage and the house, Perkins said.
Perkins said last week that he has tried about 20 whiskey recipes in a pilot operation located off the premises. He said he is experimenting with "grains that are not traditionally used" for bourbons and scotches. Perkins expects that he will make whiskey using several recipes at Quaking Aspen. The distillers he visited in Kentucky liked the recipes, he said.
Ray Milliner, the City Hall planner assigned to the Quaking Aspen application, this week issued a report finding that the proposal complies with Park City’s General Plan, the document that outlines how leaders want Park City to grow.
However, Milliner requests that the Planning Commission discuss Perkins’ plan to maintain the historic character of the buildings.
"If he can do a sensitive rehabilitation of the two buildings and incorporate his plan, I think he’ll probably be OK," Milliner said.
He expects that the earliest the Planning Commission could vote on the application would be in May. Milliner said the building connecting the house and the garage is the most significant alteration to the buildings that Perkins has requested.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing regarding Quaking Aspen on Wednesday. The meeting is slated to start at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council’s chambers at the Marsac Building.
Perkins said he is "optimistic" that the work at the site would be completed by December.
City Hall’s sale of the property to Perkins, approved last December, will not be finalized until after the Planning Commission decides whether to allow the distillery.
According to the contract, Perkins will wire the money to the government 70 days after he receives the final of three planning-related approvals needed for the distillery.
The distillery idea has won lots of accolades and there has not been organized opposition to the proposal. The City Council chose the distillery from a diverse list of ideas, arguing that Quaking Aspen was unique compared to the other submittals.
There have been some concerns that the distillery would create odors. Perkins said there is a chance that a bread-baking smell might emanate from the site for about 30 minutes in the morning, when mashing is occurring.
Jim Barth, the chairman of the Planning Commission, indicated in an interview that he supports the idea of a distillery, saying, "personally, I love it," but that Perkins must show that Quaking Aspen is appropriate for the site.
Barth said the distillery would boost Park City’s tourism-driven economy and that the location is suitable since it is a block from Main Street.
"As far as I’m concerned, that location is more affiliated with Main Street and the resort core," he said, adding, "We’re a resort town and we need to continue to improve our product."