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Owera Vineyards withdraws events building application from planning board

— Owera Vineyards has given up, for now, on its proposal to build a state-of-the-art, sound-proofed building in which to hold events on its East Lake Road property. Last Friday, Jan. 10, it withdrew its application for site plan review of the building from the Cazenovia Town Planning Board, Cazenovia Town Attorney John Langey said during the town board’s Jan. 13 meeting.

Owera attorney Antonio Caruso sent a letter to the town planning stating the withdrawal, but did not offer an explanation for the move, Langey said.

Owera’s action is part of a months-long dispute with the winery’s neighbors over loud music and late-night events, but may be an indication of the winery owners’ intentions, previously stated to the State Liquor Authority, to move out of the wedding business entirely because of the community uproar.

At the Jan. 13 town board meeting, however, the context of Langey’s statement concerned the board’s vote to hire a special counsel to the zoning board of appeals for its consideration of an appeal of the town codes enforcement officer’s interpretation of town zoning law as it applies to Owera. Langey, who typically represents the ZBA, said he helped CEO Roger Cook review town laws so he recused himself from the case as a possible conflict of interest.

Cook’s report, issued Dec. 17 and made at the behest of the town planning board, declared that under the code, as well as state Department of Agriculture and Markets law, Owera meets the definition of a farm operation and that it is a “winery,” it has the right to construct farm buildings that contribute to production, preparation and marketing of their farm product and it may hold functions, such as weddings, on the property to market their product. Winery neighbor Bryan Wendel appealed Cook’s decision to the ZBA.

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