Mar 11, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
It was standing room only in the village meeting room last week during a public hearing on Empire Brewing Company’s petition for a zone change on its Route 13 land where it intends to build its new Farmstead Brewery. Nearly 50 attendees heard an overview of the project from owner David Katleski and his management and development team, and were able to ask questions of Katleski and offer comments and concerns on the project to the village board members.
Numerous people spoke in favor of the brewery project, some expressed concerns with the brewery architecture and location and Empire officials said they had made some changes to the project plans in order to address certain neighbor concerns.
“This project has been embraced with open arms in Cazenovia until recently, and we are very sensitive to our neighbors,” Katelski said. “I do not intend to disrupt the harmony that is Cazenovia … by no sense of the imagination do I want this to be imposing to anyone’s life.”
Empire’s proposed project is to build a “farmstead brewery” on 21.6 acres of land on Route 13 that would not only have the finished beer product but also would showcase the entire beer-making process from how the hops and malt are grown and harvested to how the beer is produced. The project, which started in 2011, is intended to take pressure off Empire’s current brewing operations in Syracuse and Brooklyn, which are now running at full capacity.
Current project plans for the Cazenovia brewery show an 18,000 square-foot building on two acres — leaving 90 percent open space on the property — with three hop houses of 900 square-feet each; parking lots for visitors and employees; lavender and hops fields on the eastern portion of the land, with open space on the western edge that could possibly be planted with barley in the future. The plans were recently updated to retain a stand of trees previously slated for removal and the addition of a second bio-retention basin.
The main building will be 33-feet high in the front and 36-feet high in the back, with each hop house measuring 50 feet tall, Katleski said. The front façade of the brewery will have a historic hops barn look with stone bases, weathered-board uppers and a synthetic slate roof, while the sides and back will be wood and batten siding. Drawings, plans and a scale model of the proposed structure were laid out at the meeting for attendees to see and refer to, as were samples of the building façade materials.
The goal of the brewery is to brew 20,000 to 25,000 barrels per year, with 30,000 barrels being the maximum amount the new facility could handle, Katleski said. The brewery currently brews 4,500 barrels annually, he said.
Katleski said the law allows him to brew 60,000 barrels per year at the site, but the planned building infrastructure prohibits that.
When asked if he plans to expand to 60,000 barrels a year, Katleski responded that while he would certainly like his business to grow that much, to do so would require construction of a second brewery building on the site, which would necessitate a separate project development plan and application process through the village planning board and board of trustees, all of which would take years.
Concerns were raised by attendees about the possible bakery/restaurant component to the brewery, which project opponents fear would increase noise and odors emanating from the brewery, as well as traffic and visitation to the site.
Katleski said there is “not a major restaurant component” to his plans. He said he would like to be able offer brewery visitors something to eat during their visit, such as bread or pizza on the weekends. “It’s a place we’ll make a little bit of food to feed people on tours,” he said, adding that it will be “minimal at best.”
Concerns also were raised about the potential increase in traffic on Route 13. According to state department of transportation records, Route 13 currently gets 2,962 vehicles per day in traffic, which is what the road is capable of receiving per hour.
A traffic study conducted in September 2012 by a Syracuse-based company found the brewery would generate at “greatest capacity” 400 vehicles per day, which, when compared to the current traffic rates and capacity would have “no significant impact” on the road.
Public comments on the project were mixed at the meeting. Todd Avery, manager of Meadows Farms across the street from the Empire site, which will be working with Empire to take its spent grain, supports the project, and said his farm’s current traffic and noise output “easily” outstrips anything the brewery would create.
Similarly, Matt Critz, owner of Critz Farms on Route 13, said he “fully supports” the project, which he believes will increase the economic and agricultural growth and success of Cazenovia. He also said the amount of tractor trailer traffic his farm receives per week on Route 13 is about four times as much as Empire would receive per week, and he’s “never had a complaint.”
Critz, seconded by Ben Riley, director of operations at Owera Winery, said the Empire brewery also would be a huge contribution to Cazenovia because it would increase the success of the Cazenovia Beverage Trail, which invites tourists to visit the three sites and sample the beverages they create.
Russ Brownback, who lives across the street from the brewery land, said he “steadfastly supports” the brewery project, and that he had “lived in fear” for six years as the land was for sale, afraid of what might be built there. Since the land is zoned residential, he said, he feared a suburban subdivision development, which could not be “less compatible” with the rural setting.
On the other side of the issue, Randy Miller, Burlingame Road resident, said that while he supports the brewery concept and the success of a local businessman such as Katleski is, he is concerned that the size and design of the building — especially the sides and back of the brewery, which are not historic-style — is more industrial than farmstead, does not aesthetically fit on land so close to Lorenzo and could damage the viewshed. Rippleton Road neighbor Madeline Hart also expressed her concern that the brewery will diminish the lake views of the neighbors.
Katleski responded that he liked the design, and after going through numerous ideas this design “seems most effective for this type of situation.” Project architect Kurt Ofer said the building design “is a melding of old-style thought with very cost effective building technology.” He said in summer the trees will hide the brewery from view, although in winter, he conceded, that would be “different.” Ofer said it would be possible to add an extra tree buffer to enclose the property to address the viewshed concern.
Jody Reynolds, who lives on the property adjacent to the Empire land, said she opposed the project because she does not feel it is a farmstead brewery but is more industrial and therefore does not belong in the lake district. “The lake is our huge asset in Cazenovia,” she said, adding that the brewery project more properly belongs on Route 20 east of the village.
Cazenovia resident Doug Riker also asked Katleski why the brewery was not being built on Route 20, saying that if it was, “We wouldn’t be having this conversation. It would be a done deal.”
Katleski responded that Route 20 was “not attractive” from either an aesthetic or a marketing aspect. He said the rural setting has great appeal, and, more importantly, it is closer in proximity to the farms with whom he will be working, such as Meadows Farms across the street that will take his spent grain for cattle feed, Critz Farms down the road which provides him pumpkins for his pumpkin ale and Thorpe’s Apiary which provides honey for certain beers.
Katleski said he looked in Syracuse, Ithaca and Brooklyn when he was deciding where to build his new brewery, but when he saw the property on Route 13 in Cazenovia, “I fell in love with it.”
The Cazenovia Village Board continued its public hearing on the requested zoning change for the Empire property to 6:45 p.m., Monday, April 1.
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.
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