Jan 06, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
Owera Vineyards owner Nancy Muserlian and her attorney John P. Sidd, of the Syracuse law firm Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece, appeared before the New York State Liquor Authority last week seeking reconsideration of the authority’s previous denial of a liquor license to the winery. During the Jan. 3 hearing in New York City, there was extended questioning by SLA Chair Dennis Rosen to Muserlian and Sidd about violations issued by local municipalities against Owera’s operating practices — violations Muserlian and Sidd said they knew nothing about.
Owera Vineyards applied for a liquor license as a “catering establishment” this past July and operated all of its 2013 events through third-party catering licenses. Last month, the SLA denied Owera’s application for a liquor license and said no further caterer’s permits would be issued to the winery. While the denials restrict Owera’s ability to bring in outside alcohol, the SLA decision does not affect the ability of Owera to hire outside caterer’s to bring in and serve food at events.
Regardless of the SLA decision, however, Owera currently is not allowed to serve food at any events in its event tent in 2014 because it does not have an operating permit from the Madison County Department of Health. That permit was not re-issued by the department for this year because the winery has two outstanding violations from the department of health: one for illegally improving their water system and one for illegally drilling a well, both of which occurred in July, said Madison County Director of Environmental Health Geoff Snyder.
According to Snyder, because Owera is on a public water system they must comply with state sanitary codes and receive health department approval before making any changes or additions to their water system. The winery added new water tanks to its system in July without informing or receiving permission from the health department, so the winery was issued a violation, Snyder said. Subsequently, the department learned that Owera had drilled a new well on its property, again without informing or receiving permission from the health department, so the winery was issued a second violation and a $300 fine, Snyder said. He said the well drilling was completed but it has not been hooked up to Owera’s water system because the health department has not yet reviewed and approved the action.
“Right now, it does not appear that they can provide enough water for some of these events,” Snyder said. “They need to resolve the water supply issues and get a permit from us before they can reopen and start the event tent.”
In addition to the county violations, Owera was issued two violations by the town of Cazenovia on Sept. 6, one for excessive and non-compliant lighting and one for excessive noise occurring after 10 p.m. The lighting violation listed four separate violative incidents; the noise violation listed nine specific violative incidents.
Both of these notices of violation were sent by certified mail to the Syracuse business offices of Peter Muserlian, husband of Nancy and the Owera representative at all recent municipal board hearings on the winery, according to town records. Cazenovia Town Codes Enforcement Officer Roger Cook said he also hand-delivered the notices of violation to Peter Muserlian at the winery in Cazenovia.
The town also received a letter, dated Sept. 12 and signed by Thomas J. Fucillo, who is also an attorney with the Syracuse law firm Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece, taking issue with the notice of violation for excessive noise and acknowledging the notice of violation regarding excessive lighting, according to town records.
In addition to Fucillo and Sidd, Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece attorney Antonio E. Caruso also represents Owera and has been present and spoken at every town planning board hearing to date concerning Owera.
The two town notices of violations have been discussed by Town Attorney John Langey at nearly every town planning board meeting, and also have been reported multiple times in the Cazenovia Republican.
Despite these numerous violation citations against Owera, in Sidd’s letter to the State Liquor Authority on Dec. 26 asking the authority for a reconsideration of its previous denial of the winery’s application for a liquor license, he wrote, “It is extremely important to note that Owera Vineyards has not received a single notice of violation in any federal, state or local law, regulation or ordinance and is operating its facility in accordance with applicable law.”
“That would be an error,” Cook told the Cazenovia Republican when asked about the discrepancy. “I served it to Peter myself, so I know they received it.”
The winery’s East Lake Road neighbors, who have been fighting Owera’s event schedule since June, sent numerous letters to the SLA prior to its Jan. 3 meeting informing the commissioners of the false statement, said neighbor Deb Shephard Moynihan, who was also at the Jan. 3 meeting.
Moynihan and Berta Keeler, also a winery neighbor, both spoke at the hearing and not only reminded the SLA commissioners of the town citations but also told them of the Madison County citations issued against Owera.
During the hearing, SLA Chair Dennis Rosen questioned Sidd and Muserlian about the town violations, to which both responded that they were unaware of them.
“I was not aware that there were actual violations issued. In fact I am under the impression that we have not been issued any citations,” Sidd said.
“Your client never mentioned them to you in the course of preparing for this hearing, or the prior hearing?” Rosen asked.
“No. We just knew that the sheriff would come and say that it was excessive noise,” Muserlian said.
“But you knew you got a letter from the town, correct?” Rosen asked.
“Actually, no. It did not – I was not aware,” Muserlian responded. She said, however, that she was aware of the Sept. 6 notice of violation concerning excessive lighting, and those issues have been resolved.
Rosen then showed Sidd and Muserlian a copy of the town violation against Owera for excessive noise and asked Sidd if he would now “reconsider” his previous statement that Owera had no violations against it. “Yes, sir,” Sidd said.
After watching the SLA hearing on Jan. 3, East Lake Road neighbor Robert Cowan said “one thing that stuck out” to him during the hearing was when Sidd and Muserlian both plead ignorance of the town violations against the winery. “I find that hard to believe; I think they dug themselves a hole,” Cowan said. “I think Owera misrepresented themselves.”
Moynihan and Keeler agreed. “We were shocked at the claims made by both Mr. Sidd, Owera’s attorney, and by the winery owner when they said they were unaware of the noise violations against them and that they did not know something that was not only a part of the public record but was also hand-delivered to them as well as sent by certified mail,” they stated.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.