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Owera Vineyards, town at odds over loud weddings

Neighbors complain that new winery is ignoring original limits set on it by town planning board

— Is Owera Vineyards the farm winery it was proposed to be or has it turned into something larger, louder and more commercial than was originally approved by the town?

This is a question the Cazenovia Town Board is now directly addressing after multiple neighbors’ complaints about excessive noise, traffic and lighting have brought attention to the issue and have caused the town planning board chair and town codes officer to question whether Owera has turned into an events center it was never anticipated to become. It has also brought a visit to the winery from an official from the state department of agriculture and markets.

“We thought we were approving a winery … and what we ended up with was a banquet hall,” said Town Planning Board Chair Michael Palmer at the Aug. 12 town board meeting.

Nancy Muserlian, co-owner of Owera Vineyards, said her only comment was that Owera is looking at ways it can continue to be a good neighbor.

Owera Vineyards, located at 5276 East Lake Road, opened this past June with four acres of planted vines, a tasting room, event center and tented event facility. Owera currently produces 12 different wines, mostly from grapes grown at vineyards on Keuka Lake, and has won numerous awards.

According to planning board records, Owera is a winery that also offers itself as an event location. It had 12 weddings scheduled for this year and 25 already scheduled for 2014, said Kristie Fondario, Owera’s director of sales, during the winery’s grand opening event in June. Other events Owera holds are ones such as the Taste of Cazenovia, which it hosted on June 12.

Under the town planning board’s site plan approval for Owera in March 2011, Owera must stop all outdoor use at 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, although indoor use “may occur outside above proposed hours.” The winery has an event tent with wall flaps that can be opened or closed, and which may ultimately be the crux of a disagreement over whether it is or is not technically an “indoor structure.”

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