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Town planning board delays Owera decision due to neighbors’ ZBA appeal

Photo by Jason Emerson.

— So much new information has surfaced in the past two weeks, and so many new developments occurred, that the Cazenovia Town Planning Board voted unanimously last Thursday to continue its public hearing on Owera Vineyards’ site plan review for the proposed new events building and probably hold off on any sort of vote on the proposal until February.

The board’s decision came after nearly two hours of neighbor comments at a Dec. 19 special hearing during which it was revealed that Town Codes Enforcement Officer Roger Cook had issued a positive opinion on Owera’s adherence to town zoning laws and state Department of Agriculture and Markets rules, that Owera’s East Lake Road neighbors had appealed Cook’s determination to the town’s zoning board of appeals and that the neighbors had hired an attorney to represent their interests.

Perhaps the biggest bombshell of the meeting occurred when East Lake Road resident Deb Shepherd Moynihan, addressing the concern voiced by neighbors and some planning board members about the future business intentions of Owera’s owners, played a video in which winery co-owner Peter Muserlian told an interviewer that the construction of an “event center,” spa and/or hotel on his property was a potential goal of the business.

“A lot of new information has come out on this tonight, and I’m in no position to vote,” said planning board member Jennifer Basic after the public comments. The other board members concurred.

The Dec. 19 special meeting was the latest in a string of meetings on Owera’s site plan review to construct a new events building to replace its events tent on its East Lake Road property. At the board’s previous Dec. 5 meeting, the board issued a request to Town CEO Roger Cook to interpret the town zoning code regarding Owera’s building request.

Cook’s report, issued Dec. 17, declared that under the code, as well as state DAM law, Owera meets the definition of a farm operation and that it is a “winery.” Cook stated that under both the town code and the DAM regulations, Owera has the right to construct farm buildings that contribute to production, preparation and marketing of their farm product. Also, based on DAM rules, Owera may hold functions, such as weddings, on their property to market their product, Cook wrote.

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