Mar 07, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
One of the Rippleton Road neighbors to the proposed Empire Farmstead Brewery project has issued an ultimatum to village officials that if they do not address and mitigate his concerns about the brewery project, he will not only take legal measures, but also will close all public access to the Cazenovia Preservation Foundation trails on his property.
Officials of the Lorenzo Driving Competition and the Limestone Creek Hunt Club — which both have utilized those trials for their events for nearly 50 years — have emailed village Mayor Kurt Wheeler expressing “great concern” over the impact to their organizations and annual events.
Carlos Menacho, owner of “Old Trees” at 3957 Rippleton Road, contends the brewery would negatively impact his property, property value, family privacy and home life to the point that “If this project proceeds without some mitigation to my concerns then I will be forced to commit to the following solutions to protect my family and my investment,” he stated in an email to members of the village board of trustees and village planning board.
Menacho’s concerns, as listed in his March 1 email, which is part of the public record Cazenovia Village Planning Board files on the Empire Farmstead Brewery, states that project, as currently conceived, would be a large and “industrial” business, and not a simple farmstead brewery.
He stated his concern about the possible high volume of trucks, construction works and visitors to the site. “With the unknown quantity and character of these possible visitors and employees so close to my home and family, the possibility of interaction is of concern to me,” he wrote.
He also asked if the village can “legally place limitations on the project? What if the project grows? What if its sells to another brewery? What if it goes out of business? Do you have legally binding limitations on any of the ‘what if’s’?”
In addition to the threat to close the trails across his property, Menacho also stated that he would be “forced” to seek legal counsel to show that the village board was arbitrary in its decision to change zoning for the brewery (from residential to industrial) and would seek to have any zoning decisions overturned. He also would “have no choice” but to opt for legal counsel to seek damages from the Village of Cazenovia for its decision. “Any zoning change that diminishes my property value may constitute a compensable regulatory taking. I would prefer not to take this route, but as Mayor Wheeler has stated openly his support with statements like ‘this is a win-win situation’ I feel I may be forced to act to protect our investment if no one else will.”
“To spend another 50 percent of the value of my property in fighting the village in court is better than losing 50 percent of it passively,” he stated.
In response to this email, Jenny Coughlin, president of Limestone Creek Hunt Club, stated in a March 4 email to Wheeler that “Barring access to [this property] greatly affects our ability to continue our traditional sport of fox hunting. Once access has been denied, it becomes very difficult to ever regain the territory.”
Coughlin stated that the club has been using the land for its fox hunts for nearly 50 years, and while they take no position on the brewery project itself, the loss of trail use would be “a tragedy” for all organizations who have historically utilized the land. “We are hopeful that the village board will address the potential negative impact this edict from the new owners of Old Trees has on the many local stakeholders involved,” Coughlin wrote.
Carol Buckhout, president of the Lorenzo Driving Competition board of directors, stated in a March 4 email that the LDC board “echoes” Coughlin’s comments. After having access to the lands in question for the past 37 years, “We too are hopeful the village board will be able to work through this issue to the benefit of the organizations such as LDC, LCH and Caz Preservation,” she wrote.
While the threat of limiting public access to CPF trails has caused some concern and consternation to village residents and organizations, the Menacho/Miller family believed its ultimatum was a necessary action to instigate greater consideration by village officials of the neighbors’ concerns about the project.
Menacho said he preferred not to comment beyond his recent email until after the village planning board public hearing on Monday, March 11, which he expected to attend. That meeting occurred after press time.
When asked for further details on the effect the possible Old Trees trail closures could have, officials of the hunt club, driving competition and the CPF agreed that while it would significantly impact their organizations and events, it would not irreparably destroy the overall trail system.
Buckhout said the potential loss of access through the Old Trees Property would “significantly affect our Pleasure Drive, which is considered to be the signature class of our two-day show.” The pleasure drive covers approximately five miles of trails that include both private and CPF land and provides the competitors with a way to show the condition and fitness of their horses.
“If the potential blockage does occur, about half of the pleasure drive could be affected. The competitors that attend annually look forward to the pleasure drive and remark every year that it is one of the best aspects of any show that they attend,” she said.
John Anderson, master of the Limestone Creek Hunt Club, said the loss of private land access is one of the biggest obstacles facing the entire sport of fox hunting and something all hunt clubs must face. The possible closure of the trails on the Menacho land “would certainly make it difficult to hunt the east end of the territory, absolutely,” he said. “It certainly won’t stop the hunt club, however it makes it difficult to access the trails from the village proper.”
Anderson said the club may need to make new trails or new trail access points if the Menacho land becomes closed to public access.
“We depend greatly on our landowners [for access] and we appreciate them,” Anderson said. “I appreciate the positions of both parties, [and] I’m hopeful for a compromise.”
Carlos Gavilondo, president of the Cazenovia Preservation Foundation, said the possible trail closures on the Menacho property would have an impact on the Burlingame Road CPF trails, which get “pretty regular use” by the community.
“If he closes access the CPF would have to look at ways to either link up to existing trails or perhaps create new trails to ones cut off as a result,” Gavilondo said. “But it’s not going to cripple the trail system.”
The CPF trails across the Menacho land or allowed public use by permission of the landowner; the CPF does not hold any easement on the property.
Gavilondo said the CPF does not believe there will be a significant increase in traffic across the trails on the Menacho property as a result of the brewery, and believes it can find ways to address his concerns about possible undesirable usages. “We’re confident we can do that if responsible trail use is the issue,” Gavilondo said.
Wheeler said he has been talking with all the individuals and organizations involved in this issue, and is hopeful of a compromise.
“The village board and planning board welcome input from all individuals and groups within the community as we seek the best possible outcome with regard to this project. The village, Empire and neighbors are all actively communicating with the collective goal of addressing everyone’s concerns and goals,” Wheeler said.
Rich Huftalen, chair of the village planning board, said the trail issue will most likely be raised at his board’s March 11 public hearing on the brewery project. “Our job as a planning board is to consider the balanced interests of the community, the rights of the applicant and the concerns of the neighbors and take all that into consideration,” he said. “I’m hopeful all the issues raised can be thoughtfully addressed.”
David Katleski, owner of Empire Brewing Company, did not respond to a request for comment.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.