One month after the Cazenovia Town Board officially proposed new town laws to prevent and control excessive noise and to establish procedures and requirements to hold special events, numerous town residents and business owners attended a public hearing to voice their concerns and criticisms of the potential actions.
Although the new laws would affect the entire town of Cazenovia, the impetus for their creation arose from the controversy between Owera Vineyards and its East Lake Road neighbors last summer due to the winery’s summer events — about which the neighbors complained of excessive amplified music, among other things, and Owera received violation citations from the town.
The main public speakers at the June 16 public hearing were Owera Vineyards officials and the winery’s East Lake Road neighbors.
“These laws aren’t necessary, nor will they improve the quality of life for residents,” said Owera attorney Thomas J. Fucillo, of Menter, Rudin & Trivelpiece law firm. It was “pretty clear” that the proposed laws were meant to address Owera’s 2013 issues, but the winery has been working to improve. “Give them time … more regulation now is not what we need,” he said.
On the other side of the issue, attorney Laurel Eveleigh, of Canastota, who represents Owera’s East Lake Road neighbors, said the laws were “a very good start and a very solid foundation,” although she and her clients still had questions and concerns.
The two proposed local laws, which were officially presented by the town board in May, were designed to maintain the public health, safety and welfare in the municipality.
Proposed local law number 2, “A local law to enact a noise ordinance in the town of Cazenovia,” was created to “prevent unreasonably loud, disturbing and unnecessary noise levels within the town.” The seven-page law generally prohibits the use of amplifiers, speaker or other machines or devices capable of reproducing sound from the premises, dwelling or building within the town as being “unreasonable noise.” It also sets 15 exceptions to the law that include items such as agricultural equipment, church bells, emergency services noise, homeowners’ light residential equipment and noise from municipally-sponsored events.
The proposed law also allows for waivers to be granted where enforcement of the law would “create an unnecessary hardship” on residents. Penalties for violating the noise ordinance are a fine of not more than $500 for the first offense, with subsequent offenses fined at not more than $2,500 per offense. If the violation is “continuing in nature,” each one-hour period of violation will constitute a separate, additional and distinct offense, according to the law.
Local law number 3, to repeal Chapter 56 of the town code and replace it with a new chapter to regulate special events within the town, is intended to “establish and lawful and appropriate procedures and requirements for conducting special events in the town of Cazenovia.”
The law states that all special events, indoor or outdoor, having more than 100 people in attendance — as well as meeting certain other requirements — are prohibited unless a special event permit is received from, and a permit fee paid to, the town code enforcement officer. A number of events or activities are excepted from this law, including weddings, family gatherings, graduation parties and other similar events occurring the grounds of a private residence where no attendance fee is required.
Under the proposed law, the CEO also has the discretion to waive the application requirements under “appropriate conditions;” he also has the authority to deny, revoke, suspend or modify the permit if the applicant fails to comply with any aspect of the law.
Penalties for violating the special events law are the same as for the noise ordinance, and also includes the remedy that the town may take the applicant to court to “compel compliance with or to restrain by injunction” for violating the law.
At the start of the public hearings, Town Supervisor Bill Zupan said, “I hope everybody talks to the law and not to past differences in the town. This is not about one neighborhood but all of Cazenovia. … I want this to be a proper meeting.”
Fucillo said that, regarding the noise ordinance, the definition of “unreasonable noise” was too subjective and the threshold was too low. “It’s an arbitrary and unreasonable restriction to Owera,” he said. He also said the decibel level measurements should be made at the property line of a complaining neighbor and not at the Owera property line.
Eveleigh said her clients were concerned that there were no enforcement procedures concerning the sound measurements in the proposed law and that the decibel level measurement does not read lower register tones like bass lines. She also said the decibel level measurements should be made at the property line of Owera and not at that of a complaining neighbor. “No one should be allowed to emanate noise outside their property in excess of these standards,” Eveleigh said.
East Lake Road resident Sam Woods said that for a lot of neighbors the issue is more about frequency of events, and the number of allowable events within the laws are too high. “I suggest the number of events be tied into the sound level,” he said.
Special events law
During the second public hearing, on the special events law, Fucillo said the proposed law’s definition of a special event is “way too broad and definitely confusing. Under this, almost every Owera event could require a permit.” He also said the permit application process was “onerous” and “cumbersome.”
Other residents and business owners agreed with Fucillo on certain points, particularly that the special events law as written was confusing and cumbersome.
Linda Osborne, owner of Hillcrest Jephson Estate, which is used as a venue for philanthropic, civic and social events, said while she does not oppose the noise ordinance, she found the special events law to be unreasonable. She said that as a charity, non-profit venue, she cannot always comply with the law’s 60-day notice period, she does not always know the number of guests each event will have and the charities she sponsors have no money to pay for permit fees.
Matt and Juanita Critz, owners of Critz Farms, speaking separately, said this was an unnecessary law that duplicates items and regulations already present in other town, county and state laws. “This is onerous, and parts of it are unclear,” Matt Critz said. “This is a waste of everybody’s time.”
Juanita Critz said the proposed law would have a “significant impact” on the ability of private individuals or charitable organizations to hold special events in a private home. “We’re slamming the door on some opportunities,” she said.
At the end of the public hearings, Town Attorney John Langey said that during the ensuing month, the town board will sift through all the public comments it received on the two local laws, consider them and possibly incorporate changes into the law if necessary. If there are any emendations to the proposed laws, under state law the board must reintroduce the proposed laws at a public meeting and hold another public hearing, Langey said.
At the board’s July meeting, the board will explain what, if any, changes to the proposed laws have been made and where in the law the changes have been placed, Langey said.
Zupan said the board is “in no hurry” to pass these proposed laws — if they get approved at all — but wants simply to take action that is in the best interests of the town. He said it will be probably two or three months before the board even votes on the laws.
“This is going to be a long process. I doubt it will be done next month,” he said. “It’s not even a given we will approve either law.”
Also at the meeting the board:
—Proposed a new local law to amend chapter 142 of the town code to “add regulations for construction of highways in the town of Cazenovia.” The law would establish regulations for the issuance of permits for driveways and for construction within highways in the town. A public hearing on the proposed law was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 14, at the next regular board meeting.
—Accepted a deed of conservation easement for the O-We-Ra Point Estates subdivision.
—Approved the purchase of eight additional piezometers for use in the ongoing phosphorous study of Cazenovia Lake at a cost not to exceed $12,000. This brings the total number of piezometers being used in the study to 48.
—Authorized engineering work by Dunn & Sgromo PLLC to improve access from the parking lot of McNitt State Park to Cazenovia Lake at a cost not to exceed $9,500. The town is only paying for the engineering plans, while the state will pay for the actual construction costs associated with the work.
—Accepted the resignation of Michael Palmer as chair of the town planning board, and approved the appointment of Anastasia Urtz as the new chair, both effective July 1.
—Approved the use of Wright and Ridge roads as part of the second annual Little Moe 5K Run/Walk by Skanda Equine, scheduled to occur Sept. 13.
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.