Mar 13, 2013 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Cazenovia village meeting room was filled to seating capacity, filmed by two television news cameras and swirling with questions, responses, issues and information during the March 11 planning board public hearing on Empire Brewing Company’s requested zone change for its Route 13 property.
Empire officials offered updated information and site plan changes at the meeting, while neighbors — and two attorneys — asked more specific questions and offered some objections to the project as currently planned.
The planning board, which is considering whether or not to recommend that the village board approve the zoning change from residential to commercial, did not vote on the issue at the meeting, and extended the public hearing until its next regular meeting on April 8. Approval of the zone change is necessary for the brewery project to move forward into the next development phases.
“We’ve gotten a lot of interest on this topic [and] a lot of public input so far,” said planning board Chair Rich Huftalen. “Our job is to consider the balanced interests of the community, the applicant and the neighbors and take all that into consideration. I guarantee you we take our jobs seriously.”
The March 11 public hearing was a continuation of the planning board’s previous Feb. 11 public hearing and part of the process of accumulating project information and public feedback, Huftalen said. There was also a public hearing in front of the village board of trustees on March 4, at which Empire Brewing Company officials presented the then-current iteration of its plans — including a scale model, drawings and maps for public viewing — and answered board and public questions.
At the March 11 planning board meeting, project architect Kurt Ofer gave a brief overview of the project and said he had submitted updated site plans and an updated State Environmental Quality Review Assessment form to the planning board that afternoon.
The new site plans included changes to the position of the building, which has been moved slightly northeast of its previous location, and the inclusion of a hedge of 35-foot-high Douglas fir trees along the southern property edge. Both of these changes were made to address neighbor concerns about undesirable views of the proposed building, Ofer said. The updated plans also incorporated the conservation of a stand of trees that were previously slated for removal, and a noise study report concerning the building’s HVAC system. These changes were made in order to address certain concerns of the Cazenovia Area Conservation Commission and the village engineer, Ofer said.
In addition to the updated development plans, the planning board also recently received an updated traffic study of the proposed development and will receive results from a visual impact study of the project, which is currently underway, Huftalen said.
Many of the public comments at the planning board meeting were concerns previously raised at the village board meeting, such as building architecture, building size, possible inclusion of a bakery or restaurant component, traffic and visitation numbers and possible hours of operation. Some issues were raised in greater detail than in previous public meetings, such as the possible odor that would emanate from the brewery, the disruption of the view to the lake for the neighbors and from the lake towards Lorenzo for summer residents, visitors and boaters and the use of the Cazenovia Preservation Foundation trails that surround the brewery property.
This latter issue has garnered vast attention recently after Carlos Menacho, owner of the Old Trees property next to the brewery, wrote a letter to the mayor and the planning board stating that he would shut off access to the CPF trails across his property if his concerns about the brewery development were not addressed. Menacho and his wife Amy, who live in Miami, attended the planning board hearing and voiced their specific concerns. They are worried about maintaining the historic integrity of the area, setting precedents for future growth of the Route 13 corridor and how businesses will be restricted and regulated from damaging the land or the community, and quality of life issues such as privacy, security, noise pollution and offensive odors, Amy Menacho said.
“We’re not trying to shut the project down,” she said, but they are concerned about moving the project forward in a way that is best for their family and for the community.
The Menacho’s attorney, Douglas Zamelis, also raised a number of concerns to the planning board, the first of which was that “This project is already being discussed as a fait accompli,” despite the fact that the zoning request has not even been approved yet, he said. That requested zone change is not some minor vote but a major issue that must be carefully considered by the planning board, he said, adding that the integrity of the zoning law is more important than promoting agri-business as stated in the village and town Comprehensive Plan.
The issue broached most at the meeting was concern about the building design, with opponents claiming the building is a large, unattractive “industrial warehouse” and not a small, historically charming “farmstead brewery” as Empire owner David Katleski has promised.
Longtime Cazenovia summer resident Hugh Emery said “This is an industrial facility, not some little mom and pop thing,” as he was led to believe; while resident Stanley Maziuk said he envisioned the business to be “a boutique operation” about the size and look of the Gothic Cottage, “but the scope of it is more than I initially perceived.”
After about an hour of public comments, Katleski stood up and said he felt “compelled” to defend the project.
“It’s being made out to be a massive brewery, and it’s not,” he said, adding that it is only one-third the size of the state definition of an industrial brewery, which is 60,000 barrels per year.
Katleski said that if there are any odors from the brewery they would be “minimal” at best, since the facility will have state-of-the-art equipment and techniques to mitigate or eliminate brewing odors. He said that in 18 years of brewing at his Armory Square location in downtown Syracuse, they have never had one complaint about the smell.
He also said he is not planning a restaurant or a bakery as part of the brewery, but he does want to have some sort of “food component” so visitors can have food while they sample the beer, such as bread or pizzas. He said the notion of a full-fledged bakery on site was a “misconception” about the plan — in fact he said many of the comments at the meeting were “misconceptions” based on “misinformation” that he felt was “unfair.”
“I didn’t think I’d get this type of pushback from the neighbors, to be honest,” he said.
While public comments during the March 4 village board public hearing were overwhelmingly positive about the brewery project, at the March 11 planning board meeting they were overwhelmingly negative. This latter result was by design, Katleski said, saying he asked his supporters to stay home because he wanted to hear the opposition viewpoints and concerns.
“I’m willing to work with you,” he said. “I’ll be completely open to anything that is not unreasonable.”
The planning board left the public hearing open until its next regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 8.
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.