May 08, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Cazenovia Village Board Monday night heard the results of five professional studies that determined the proposed Empire Brewing Company farmstead brewery in Cazenovia will have minimal to zero impact on surrounding noise, odor, visual aesthetics, archaeological and traffic considerations. In addition, Empire owner David Katleski informed the board that he has altered the tentative building specifications to make the brewery smaller, shorter, better screened from neighbors and more visually pleasing — all in response to the numerous neighbor and community concerns voiced in recent weeks.
“This is not as functional for us as a brewery, [but] we are willing to do this” to address community concerns, Katleski said of the architectural modifications during a village board public hearing on May 6. “I’ve done, to the best of my ability, to keep the public up to speed on my intentions for this project … I will not waiver from the truth.”
The meeting was a continuation of two previous public hearings on the brewery project, one to consider a proposed law to change the village code to allow the milling of flour, feed or grain in the village, which is currently prohibited. The other hearing was to consider Katleski’s application for a zone change on his Route 13 property from residential to commercial/farm use, which is necessary for the project to even move forward.
The village board meeting room was completely full for the hearings, which were addressed simultaneously, with more than 50 people present. Both supporters and opponents of the project attended, many of whom publicly voiced their opinions on whether the board should support the project in general and the zone change application specifically.
Mayor Kurt Wheeler opened the meeting with the information that Katleski had submitted the five studies to the village, which was done at the request of the village planning board. Trustee Amy Weber Mann called the studies “exhaustive” and said they “helped a lot” for the board’s decision-making.
Village Attorney Jim Stokes said the studies were done as part of the village’s State Environmental Quality Review Act responsibilities regarding the project, which the board takes “very seriously.” He characterized the studies as being “extensive,” “in-depth” and done by licensed professionals. “So they carry a lot of weight,” he said.
Katleski summarized the results of each of the five reports individually, often quoting from the actual documents. The Cazenovia Republican also has reviewed the reports in the village planning board files. The results in brief were:
The sound of the brewery that reaches the Empire property line is 49 and 50 decibels, according to the Sack and Associates report. The noise levels “adhere to the law,” Katleski said. “In other words, it’s not that noisy.”
Odor study: The Syracuse firm of Barton & Loguidice conducted an odor screening evaluation at Ithaca Beer Company, turning on their brewing facility to the same specifications as Empire will be in Cazenovia. They monitored the brewery for one hour during peak odor time (lunch rush hour and during wort boiling), then measured the odors up to 250 feet from the steam discharge stack, where the odors are released from the building. The “Nasal Ranger Scentometer” determined “no nuisance odors will be experienced beyond the property of Empire Farmstead Brewery.”
Visual study: An edr engineering firm balloon test — flying a bright red 15-foot-by-6-foot blimp-shaped helium balloon to the highest point of the proposed building (47 feet) — which was observed from 50 viewpoints throughout the village and from historically significant areas, determined no significant visual impact. This minimum impact, which was determined last week with no leaves on the trees, will be even less when leaves are actually on the trees around the property, Katleski said.
“Field review on April 23, 2013, revealed that actual project visibility will be significantly more limited than suggested by the viewshed analysis, due primarily to the screening effects of forest vegetation,” the edr report stated.
Archaeological study: The entire property was plowed and studied, and Alliance Archaeological Services determined project impacts would be “minimal,” and “no further investigation was recommended.”
Traffic study: Empire actually has had two traffic studies completed (the first was criticized by project opponents as not detailed enough) by Jim Napolean & Associates, and both determined there would be no impact “to any significant degree” from the brewery.
“These five studies all came out very favorable, which is what I’ve been saying all along,” Katleski said.
All five study reports are in the public record as part of the planning board records for the brewery project, and can be viewed by members of the public at the village offices.
In addition to the study results, Katleski also revealed at the meeting that he has changed the building design plans for the brewery in order to conform better to the numerous community concerns he has been hearing in recent weeks — most specifically that the current building plan is too big, too unattractive and not visually in tune with the historic and cultural heritage of the Cazenovia area. He called the new design “something softer” than previously conceived.
The new design is shorter — 47-feet-high hop houses versus 50-feet-high — and slightly smaller; the angle of the building has been turned slightly and the employee parking been reduced from 40 to 25 spaces; tour bus parking has been added to the parking lot; and more natural buffers (predominantly evergreen trees) have been added around the property to shield the view from neighbors. The previously-designed fields of hops and lavender on the property will remain as planned.
The overall aesthetic design of the 18,000-square-foot brewery building itself — which opponents have decried as nothing more than a boxy, ugly warehouse look — has also been changed. Previous plans called for a main building 33-feet high in the front and 36-feet high in the back, with three hop houses in front each measuring 50 feet tall. The front façade of the brewery had a historic hops barn look with stone bases, weathered-board uppers and a synthetic slate roof, while the sides and back were a simple square configuration of wood and batten siding.
The new designs leave the front façade as previously designed, but the building design has been changed from a square warehouse-style one to that of a historic hops barn with a peaked roof. Katleski and his project architect Kurt Oder also brought maps, drawings and a scale model of the new designs as visual aids to show the board.
“This is aesthetically nice,” Katleski said.
Katleski also addressed concerns over the size of the brewery building, which he said has been falsely characterized in recent letters to the editor published in the Cazenovia Republican as equivalent to a Wal-Mart or the Cazenovia High School.
Using a map of the land marked with the brewery building in grey at its 18,000 square-feet design, Katleski used a bright yellow piece of paper, cut to the shape and map-scale size of the 120,000 square-foot high school and overlaid it on the brewery site. He then did the same with a bright pink piece of paper, cut to the shape and map-scale size of a typical 185,000 square-foot Wal-Mart. Finally, he held all three map-scale building pieces together on the site. The brewery building was dwarfed by the other two. Audience members were audibly impressed and amused by the comparisons.
During the public comment time at the hearing, numerous people stood up to speak. Most of the comments supported the brewery, while a few Route 13 neighbors opposed it. The majority of comments were the same the board has been hearing for the past three months, but a few new people were in attendance.
Beth McKellips, director of agricultural economic development at Cornell Cooperative Extension Madison County, said projects such as the Empire brewery are beneficial for the local economy, especially in rural areas, and bring in large amounts of jobs and income.
“If I could play god for a day, I would create this project,” McKellips said. “But I didn’t have to. Dave did.”
Jane Nicholson-Dourdas, senior planner for the town of Dryden, strongly supported the brewery, saying Dryden and its surrounding area has numerous breweries and wineries and its economy is “thriving” from millions of annual dollars in local revenue.
On the other side of the project, an attorney and a real estate appraiser, both hired by brewery neighbor and vocal opponent Jody Reynolds, spoke urging the village board to oppose the project.
Harlan Lavine, an appraiser from Syracuse, said Reynolds stands to take a “substantial loss in value” on her property if the brewery is built. He said the zone change from residential to commercial is “out of character” with the village and would in fact be “spot zoning” — an invalid zone change that benefits a single parcel of land by creating a zone for use just for that parcel and different from the surrounding properties in the area.
Melody D. Scalfone, a Syracuse attorney, said the proposed zone change for the brewery was “not in accord” with the village’s Comprehensive Plan and was “a classic case of spot zoning.” She said to approve the change would be “a flagrant example of giving special advantage to one property owner to the detriment of others.”
Scalfone said the Environmental Impact Study done by the village on the Katleski property was inadequately completed as required under the law, and the village is therefore “avoiding” a full environmental review. She said Route 13 property is not the most appropriate place for a brewery, that she is “not convinced” by the expert study recently submitted that noise will not impact the neighbors and that Reynolds’ view of the lake will be blocked.
After 90 minutes of discussion on the issue, the village board closed the public hearings.
The next step in the process will occur when the village planning board meets Monday, May 13, to recommend whether or not the village board should approve the requested zone change. That recommendation will be forwarded to the village board. The village board has scheduled a special meeting for 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 20, to consider the advisory opinion of the planning board and possibly vote on the zone change proposal.
If the trustees reject the zone change application, then the brewery project is basically dead, since a brewery is not allowed under the current zoning law. If the board approves the zone change, then the project continues the site plan review process already underway by the village planning board.
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.