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Town zoning board rejects Owera appeal, says winery must abide by stated hours of operation

ZBA also rules winery event tent is not a building and therefore cannot run events past approved hours

— Owera Vineyards’ three-season event tent is not an indoor building, as the winery owners claim, but an outdoor facility; and all events held at the winery — whether in the tent or not — must abide by the prescribed hours of operation as approved by the town planning board in 2012, hours which are enforceable by the town.

This was the decision of the Town Zoning Board of Appeals, issued Monday, Aug. 25, at the ZBA’s regular monthly meeting, in response to an appeal by Owera seeking to overturn a town zoning enforcement officer determination concerning allowable facility events.

The ZBA not only ruled against Owera’s arguments that its event tent is an indoor structure and therefore events held in it are not subject to the winery’s town-approved hours of operation, it also dismissed “with prejudice” Owera’s appeal as untimely because it was not filed within the prescribed 60-day time period.

Calling the arguments of Owera’s attorney “flawed,” the ZBA stated in its decision concerning hours of operation, “We do not believe the town planning board intended to approve operation of the facility 24 hours a day, without restrictions as the applicant suggests.” As for the inside/outside distinction of the tent: “Regardless of the elaborate nature of the tent facility, it is still only made of fabric without weight-bearing or insulated walls. We believe the planning board granted site plan approval based upon the understanding that use of the tent would be an ‘outdoor’ activity that could have adverse environmental effects upon the neighborhood,” the decision stated.

Owera’s appeal, filed on June 6, was the result of town Codes Enforcement Officer Roger Cook’s April determination that a June 10 Owera event would violate the winery’s permitted operations because all outdoor events are required to end by 5 p.m., but the event in the event tent was scheduled to end at 9:30 p.m. Cook determined that the tented event center is “considered to be outside” and therefore must end by 5 p.m.

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