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Madison County Highway Department removes three dozen trees on East Lake Road

Madison County Highway Department crews strip cut a swath of about three dozen trees on East Lake Road last week, citing drainage and public safety issues.

Madison County Highway Department crews strip cut a swath of about three dozen trees on East Lake Road last week, citing drainage and public safety issues. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— Many Cazenovia residents were alarmed last week when Madison County Highway Department crews showed up on East Lake Road in front of Owera Vineyards and started strip-cutting trees of all sizes along the roadside. Some people were concerned at the loss of vegetation done with no public notification and no public explanation; East Lake Road neighbors feared that their controversy with Owera Vineyards had taken a new twist, with the winery receiving special treatment by having its private/business viewshed improved using taxpayer dollars.

The reason for the removals, according to Madison County Highway Superintendent Joe Wisinski, was a combination of road protection, public safety and an Owera request to remove one tree to improve line-of-sight from its driveway — a request mandated on the winery by the town planning board.

“We’re very aware of the sensitivity of tree work, especially in Cazenovia, where we receive more public feedback on it than in any other community. We make sure we follow the right procedures, and do nothing wrong or improper.” Wisinski said. “Our responsibility is to the motoring public on the road, and we try to maintain that infrastructure in the most cost-effective manner we can. That is what we go by.”

The East Lake Road cuttings were the result of Owera Vineyards owner Peter Muserlian asking the county highway department to remove a large tree on the north side of Owera’s driveway in order to improve the line-of-sight for exiting winery visitors and for people driving south on the road, Wisinski said.

This line-of-sight issue was a public safety concern broached by the Cazenovia Town Planning Board during one of its numerous meetings on winery operations.

“Peter Muserlian probably could have done this [tree removal] on his own, but it’s not his tree — he is not able to remove a tree that is not his,” Wisinski said. “I’m sure the town didn’t know he didn’t own that tree.”

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