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Planning board: No event building for Owera without state approval

— After a nearly two-hour meeting and public hearing last week, the Cazenovia Town Planning Board told Owera Vineyards owner Peter Muserlian that it will not approve his request to build a new events building on his East Lake Road property unless and until the state Department of Agriculture and Markets makes a determination that the building — and the numerous proposed, year-round events that will be held inside it — actually have anything to do with farming and with promoting Owera’s wines, as the state DAM laws say they must.

“We cannot support this at all,” Planning Board Chair Michael Palmer said at the Nov. 7 meeting after hearing an update on Muserlian’s proposed building plans. “Personally, I don’t see how a conference center sells wine … I don’t buy that this is part of the winery. And without some firm direction from Ag and Markets, I cannot support this.”

Planning board Member Anastasia Urtz agreed with Palmer but took it in a different direction, saying she does not believe the planning board even has the authority to approve such an events building, because it has no “farming” use the way the building, being in an agricultural district, must. “I think [Owera] is seeking a use variance,” which is the purview of the town board, not the planning board, she said.

Owera owner Peter Muserlian, who spoke very little during the meeting, said that he must have a facility in order to promote his wine, and that the department of Agriculture and Markets allows him to do “just about anything” as long as he is promoting his wine.

Muserlian’s attorney, Antonio E. Caruso, also said the winery can do whatever it wants, regardless of the neighbors’ complaints or the town’s laws, saying, “Because we are in an agricultural district the town’s rules don’t apply to us.”

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