By Maja Peirce
On Thursday, July 23, the planning commission of Cave Creek and chairmen of the planning commission, Bob Voris, discussed the advantages and disadvantages to changing the underlying zoning of a parcel totalling approximately 6,136 square feet from ‘Town Commercial Core’ to ‘Commercial Buffer Zone’. The potential rezone was at the request of Chris Chapman on behalf of Hills and McGee Moonshine Co.
Chapman asked for this change in order to apply for a special use permit to distill American White Whiskey on the property. Once Chapman is able to get a special use permit, he plans on setting up equipment in the back of the store in a way that allows him to show visitors the process of distillation.
“What I’m doing with the moonshine, rootbeer, and sarsaparilla, is bringing some of my Tennessee heritage and history to the town. I feel it is the perfect fit for it. I’m using a recipe that is a couple of centuries old. What I’m selling here is nostalgia and this town couldn’t be more perfect for it,” said Chapman.
Despite Chapman’s efforts to marry his sentiment with the town, there is some controversy surrounding the rezoning of the property. While the rezoning will not directly impact the town yet, citizens express concern regarding the rezoning properties and the fear it will lead to further commerical development in town.
“The applicant could have bought any of two vacant lots on Hidden Valley just around the corner that are already zoned Commercial Buffer (CB). Many more vacant CB sits out on Carefree Highway in our town limits. It sets a horrible precedent when the town changes Town Commercial Core (TCC) to Commercial Buffer. Hidden Rocks and Galloway Ridge are examples of multi-family where Town Commercial Core once covered those lands,” wrote Anna Marsolo, town resident and activist, in her letter to commissioners.
Chapman plans on keeping the building intact and preserved due to its historical value to the town, with the exception of adding a floor drain, a sink drain and attaching to the town sewer. If the business grows and expansion is required, Chapman’s goal is to find another property outside of town to warehouse.
“Our goal here is to help uphold the historical value of the town, the aesthetic of the town. That’s one of the reasons why we chose this building. From my understanding, it was one of the original Cave Creek post offices,” said Chapman.
“I know there are a lot of people who resist, especially when they hear things like Commercial Buffer or General Commercial and we understand that. We even side with the opinion. Our entire intention here is to make the most minimal footprint as we can,” said Chapman.
Cave Creek Distillery will be using their own water for the product and the business will be transporting the waste created by manufacturing the product themselves. He additionally expressed that any limitations the town decides to place on the amount of alcohol that can be kept at the storefront, he is more than willing to comply with.
“We’re going to have a very authentic and unique fit here in the town but we’ll also be bringing a lot of potential business to everyone surrounding us. We have our storefront but really the idea is to offer everyone a chance to see the distillery, offer courses, tours and tasting. We don’t plan on being a bar so we won’t be serving cocktails. You can buy our product in a jar and take it home with you or stay, learn about how it’s made, and have a sample at the end,” said Chapman. They hope to use local ingredients and plan on selling the product to businesses in town.
“This is the place I will probably be calling home for the rest of my life and I want to share some of my history with the town. I spoke with the town historian at the Cave Creek museum and he was saying that originally due to the freshwater source, that there were a lot of moonshiners in this town. So essentially what we’re doing is bringing back some of the town’s original and authentic history to begin with,” said Chapman.