Proposed “Camp Champion” brewery and tasting room causes concerns with neighbors

Some problems are brewing between beer makers and people in Albemarle County.
Updated: Nov. 27, 2019 at 6:18 PM EST
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, V.A. (WVIR) - Some problems are brewing between beer makers and people in Albemarle County.

Earlier this week, Champion Brewing announced plans to open a summer camp-themed brewery and tasting room on Earlysville Road. The proposed “Camp Champion” would open on the peninsula along the Rivanna Reservoir in the building that was once Monticello Wesleyan Church.

One of the biggest concerns for people living in the area is the potential for traffic and accidents. Some say the area is hard enough to navigate even before a few beers.

“The exit from this particular parking lot is a difficult enough interchange to negotiate when a person is sober, and this is going to be put forward as an establishment that sells alcohol on a regular basis, and people are here consuming…their driving ability will be even further impaired,” said Jim Weber of the Rivanna Neighborhood Association.

Champion’s President and Head Brewer, Hunter Smith, says of their five establishments, the brewery has never had any issues with intoxicated drivers.

“In any case, you know where you're serving alcohol there's that concern and that's why we're regulated by the state, and police obviously, to make sure that we don't over serve anyone,” Smith said. “That's the case for any drinking establishment, so that’s always a concern.”

The Ivy Creek Foundation’s Board of Directors has also weighed-in on the matter. It sent letters to the Virginia ABC and Albemarle County supervisors, saying the tasting room could “negatively impact the wildlife, water ways, and the safety” of people visiting the Ivy Creek Natural Area.

“The introduction of a large scale, 200 patron business will introduce a lot of noise and a lot of congestion to the area disruption of the residential area,” Weber said.

Champion says that outdoor space is part of the appeal. Ingredients for the beers that would be brewed could be grown at the site.

“We’re excited about making small batch beers on site,” Smith said. “It's not actually going to be a large growing operation…shouldn't have any [environmental] impact whatsoever.”

A representative for Champion says they are working on closing the sale of the building and the surrounding three-plus acres. Albemarle County says no permits for Camp Champion have been granted yet, but the sale is closing.

Some of the neighbors have started an online petition that they plan to present to the Board of Supervisors.

“We just don't feel that this is consistent with the designation in the use for the site, and we just don't want to see it occur here,” Weber said.

Champion hopes to open the venue in April of 2020.

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