I’m all for liberalizing laws governing small scale production of cider, and for allowing brewers the freedom to try out different types of products in the market. On a technical level though, in my experience using straight naturally made cider only and letting fermentation proceed to completion will get you a very dry product at 6% ABV or so. People add brown sugar, maple syrup, sucrose, glucose, maltose, etc. to boost alcohol. Of course there are apples that can get the ABV higher, but usually cider is made from a blend and even the single variety types are not ones with sky high sugar to begin with.
Not sure why increasing the limit on “cider” to 8.5% will allow more dry or tart cider either. Those I think are independent variables not particularly related to alcohol content. In fact unless you make special efforts otherwise, you end up with bone dry cider as a result of almost any brewing yeast having no trouble eating up all the fructose in the cider. Tartness is going to be governed by the acidity of the apples going into the blend, not the starting sugar content.
I was talking the other month with the person who does social media for the Virginia cider maker’s association. Not sure what the production licensing is like there, but she said most of the makers she works with want to market their product like wine rather than like beer. There is more of a culture of paying higher prices per bottle and connoisseur-ship in wine. Plus they want to differentiate themselves from the purveyors of the artificial mass produced wine-cooler like product being sold by the big companies (woodchuck, etc.). So maybe boosting the alcohol gets you closer to wine territory in the eyes of the consumer, which is probably where you want to be as an artisan cider brewer.