MISSOULA — A zoning change would allow a brewery to be built near a Missoula school, but not everyone agrees it should be there.
Plans are moving forward on putting in a new brewery at the end of Butler Creek Road where a house currently sits. But one concern being voiced is that DeSmet School lies only hundreds of feet away through an underpass – and that’s causing some disagreements between the two parties.
“The people on the hill, they don't want the brewery. The school -- very emphatically we don't want the brewery there,” DeSmet School Principal Matthew Driessen said.
Safety concerns about having an establishment whose sole purpose is to sell alcohol are abundant -- and are also a big factor in the school’s feelings towards the brewery. “They are creating a quagmire right there of unsafe travel,” Driessen said.
The proposed brewery’s founder says he would do anything he can to help ensure safety in the area. Derek Hockenbrough added that this kind of vicinity equation has already existed in Missoula for some time.
Hockenbrough said, “Even just here in Missoula, you have full bars that have been existing right next to schools -- a lot closer than ours would be -- with no issue for a long time and that's a full bar,” Hockenbrough explained.
Driessen said that that they are trying to create a community around their school to attract more families to send their students to the independent school, and that the brewery inhibits their plans.
“We are doing community development. We are working very hard to make a signature community out here,” Driessen said. “Putting a brewery in the middle of our residential is really destroying everything that we are trying to build.”
“I am now going to have three alcohol places two breweries and a bar. No grocery store. I’m going to have two breweries and a bar and no playground for my kids,” he added.
Otherworld Brewing believes that they can help build that community with their presence and that they can also attract people to live in the area.
“We will raise the value of the property over there that we will bring in more residents for DeSmet,” Hockenbrough said. “And I know that Mr. Driessen would love for that property to be residential, but people have done analysis on it and it's just not feasible for multi home residential development.”
The next decision will come from the Missoula County Commission which will need to approve of rezoning in the area for the project to move forward.
Otherworld Brewing also plans on putting a cherry orchard on the plot of land to grow cherries for different barrel aged beers they would like to make. Meanwhile, DeSmet School administrators say that they are looking to expand and create a new gym that could double as a community center outside of school hours.