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Owera neighbors continue fight against winery at planning board public hearing

— Practically the entire East Lake Road neighborhood by Owera Vineyards attended a town planning board public hearing last week concerning Owera’s proposal to build an events building. The neighbors showed up to not only oppose the winery’s proposed new building but also to demand an audit of the winery’s books to determine whether or not it has been holding its numerous weddings and events in violation of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets law.

More than 50 town residents crammed into the Nov. 7 public hearing — so many that there were not enough chairs, and people were standing along the sides of the meeting room and out in the Gothic Cottage entrance hallway just to listen. The meeting room in the town office, which is actually two rooms comprised of the old formal parlors in the historic home, was so acoustically unfriendly that many attendees said after the meeting that they could barely hear — or not hear — what was actually said during the meeting, especially by Owera’s representatives, whose backs were to the audience.

Eight members of the public spoke at the meeting: Seven opposed the winery’s proposal and asked the board to reject it, and one supported the winery and encouraged the board to approve it. Two other attendees submitted letters of comment to the board for inclusion in the record, but did not speak publicly.

Amid the now-common accusations by local residents of Owera being a bad neighbor, of violating town zoning laws and of being untruthful and untrustworthy in all its operations and actions, there were also some new statements made, including one neighbor who spoke in support of the winery.

East Lake Road resident Bob Cowan said Owera was “a banquet facility in violation of town zoning requirements,” and requested that the town of Cazenovia seek a “full audit” of Owera by the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to identify exactly what part of the winery falls under the DAM law. He also requested that until the current zoning issues with Owera are resolved, the town make the winery cease and desist all event operations.

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