WESTFIELD - A new business is coming to town.
After a pubic hearing and a special meeting of the Westfield Town Board, Mazza Vineyards of North East, Pa., has received permission via a special use permit to build a distillery/winery at 8398 West Route 20. Mazza Vineyards also operates a sister winery called Mazza Chautauqua Cellars in the Town of Chautauqua.
During the public hearing held before the town's monthly meeting on Wednesday, July 11, many questions and issues were brought up by those in attendance. Bob Mazza, owner of Mazza Vineyards and current President of the Lake Erie Wine Country organization formerly Chautauqua Lake Erie Wine Trail, was on hand to explain his company's plans as well as answer questions and concerns.
Photo by Jenna Loughlin
Bob Mazza, owner of Mazza Vineyards of North East, Pa., answers questions from audience and Westfield Town Board members during the board’s meeting on Wednesday, July 11.
"We (Chautauqua County wineries) are a destination and people will come to the area specifically to ... visit the wineries and experience what they have to offer," Mazza said "I think it's gonna be good for the community."
According to Mazza, the plan is to build a 5,000 square foot building around 800 feet back from the road via a boulevard entrance primarily for distilling, but there will be a winery portion as well. A well and pond will be built on the property for use in the distilling process. Mazza said the plan is to construct a green facility, similar to that in Chautauqua which runs on 600 watts of electricity
In addition, Mazza is planning on growing many of the products necessary for the distillery operation on site. The first product Mazza expects the Westfield operation to produce is a rye whiskey.
While most in attendance supported a new business coming to the town, there were some concerns raised about the size and scope of the proposed operation, including water usage.
Fred Johnson, owner of Johnson Estate Winery, brought up that the land is zoned residential/agricultural, and when people buy houses in the area, they do not expect a commercial business in such a location. Johnson's main issue with allowing the business is that the SUP goes with the property and not the person who applies for it. Thus, Johnson is worried once the land becomes commercial, the size of the business could grow to something like a Mogen David Wine Corporation in Westfield.
Town Attorney Joel Seachrist explained Mazza cannot go above and beyond what is specified in the SUP - which is for a 5,000 square foot facility and one well - without applying for another permit.
Another concern raised was the new business drawing water away from its neighbors. As part of the plan for a "green" facility, it includes creating a loop of water from the pond, cooling the water and returning it to the pond. Mazza said he expects the new business to use 250 to 500 gallons of well water per day - an average family of four uses around 350 gallons per day according to Seachrist - and also said his business already has a request for its wastewater to feed fish.
"We believe in conserving," Mazza said. "We're gonna be very respectful of the land."
Former Executive Director of the Westfield Development Corporation John Rawlinson, current Executive Director of the Westfield Development Corporation Aaron Resnick and owner of Noble Winery Pete Noble all spoke up in favor of another business coming to Westfield. Rawlinson said he struggled for six years to get business to coming to Westfield.
"I really welcome the opportunity," he said.
Noble said he thinks it is admirable that another business wants to come into the community. Both he and Rawlinson felt the concerns were valid, but could be addressed and solved. Resnick also added his support for the project, along with others in the audience. In fact, there were quite a few property owners who will be neighbors of the new business in attendance, and they said Mazza come over to their houses, spoke with them about the new facility and went over all their concerns to their satisfaction to the point where one said she, "whole-hearted approves" of the project.
Finally, the board received two letters of support for the application, one by Resnick and the other by Growers' Co-Operative Grape Juice Co., Inc. General Manager David Momberger.
Town Supervisor Martha Bills thanked the audience saying she appreciated everyone coming to the public hearing and helping the town make its decision.
After hearing both the concerns of town residents and the answers to those concerns from Mazza, the Town Board of Trustees held a special meeting which was open to the public on Friday, July 13 where all unanimously voted to approve the SUP.
The Westfield Town Planning Board recommended approval of the SUP. The Chautauqua County Planning Board reviewed the application and determined it to be of local concern with no significance county wide.