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

— While stating that Owera may legally pursue new construction and hold events, Cook offered the caveat that DAM law allows for a case-by-case review by the town of any events held and nothing in his determination should be construed to limit the town’s review right. He also stated that nothing in his opinion allows Owera to build or create an “event center,” conference center, bar, restaurant or any other commercial use — it must abide by the farm winery restrictions under the DAM.

Cook’s basic finding that Owera is currently operating within town zoning laws did not sit well with Owera’s neighbors, who have been fighting against the winery’s holding of loud events for months, and one neighbor, Bryan Wendel, has appealed Cook’s decision to the town zoning board of appeals, calling it “totally flawed.” Wendel read his letter to the ZBA aloud to the planning board during the public comment period of the Dec. 19 special meeting.

In addition to Wendel, nearly one dozen other residents, mainly East Lake Road neighbors, also made comments continuing to question the legality of Owera’s plans, to declare the business an event center instead of a winery and to urge the planning board to deny the winery’s request for the new events building. Many of the neighbors quoted town and DAM laws in support of their arguments, and quoted a recent decision from the state liquor authority denying Owera’s request for a liquor license.

Attorney Laurel Eveleigh, of Canastota, also spoke to the board, saying she had been retained by “a group of concerned Cazenovia citizens” in this matter. She said the board’s apparent assumption that Owera’s “catering” operation has a right to exist and the must be worked around to the satisfaction of all parties is a flawed perspective. “There is no inevitability that this site plan has to be granted,” Eveleigh said. “This banquet hall and catering business is not a farm operation.”

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