Ellicottville Distillery Concerns Addressed

By Jann Wiswall

Several town of Ellicottville residents attended the Planning Board meeting on Monday, Oct. 27, to learn more and ask questions about the long-planned realignment of Holiday Valley Road and the proposed special use permit for the Ellicottville Distillery on Robbins Road.

HV Road Realignment

The Holiday Valley road realignment project, due to begin next spring, involves rerouting Holiday Valley Road between the Tamarack Club and Valley Village. The new route will head up the hill across from Tamarack, along the top of the existing third tier parking lot and back around to the existing roadway. Entry to the parking area will be at the third tier; exits will be located at the first tier. The existing road in front of the lodge, administration and operations buildings will be removed and replaced with more parking and a wide area with steps, grassy areas and landscaping leading to the main lodge.

Chris Brown, owner of the Ellicottville Depot restaurant, sought assurances from Holiday Valley that storm water and sediment runoff both during and after construction won’t exacerbate flooding problems his restaurant already experiences. Those problems and their solutions are being addressed by Town Engineer Mark Alianello and others and are not an issue before the Planning Board.

Bonnie Koschir, director of operations at Holiday Valley, and project engineer Dave Johnson explained that a “Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) is being developed, as required by law, to ensure that waste water containment efforts can withstand a 100-year storm.” The SWPPP must be approved by the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) before construction begins.

The planning board asked Johnson if the SWPPP will take care of Brown’s issue, i.e. “Will it ensure that the Holiday Valley project will not make his problem worse?” Both Johnson and Alianello said the plan would not exacerbate the problem.

Another resident asked if the grade at the intersection of the new road and Valley Village Road would be reduced. Koschir and Alianello explained that the grade only at the top of Valley Village will be reduced from 13 percent to about 12 percent. They acknowledged that it would be ideal to reduce it further, but it is not possible for numerous engineering reasons.

Planning Board Member Mike Guerico, who also serves as Ellicottville’s fire commissioner, noted that the new road alignment is far better for emergency vehicles, which will no longer need to worry as much about pedestrians.

After the public hearing, the planning board went through the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) for the project. Because the SWPPP is not yet complete, the board approved the SEQR with a notation that the SWPPP must comply with DEC and other state requirements.

The board then approved the site plan on that condition and with the condition that easements for utility companies be transferred in advance of construction.

Ellicottville Distillery

The public hearing on the Ellicottville Distillery was attended by several residents who live on or near the Robbins Road location of the business. Their concerns had to do with traffic, waste disposal and groundwater protection.

Owners Bryan Scharf and Charlie Bares explained that the distillery will be classified as a farm distillery, which, among other things, requires that 80 percent of the products used in production — in this, case apple cider —come from New York State. The owners will produce apple brandy from the cider.

The owners noted that the distilling side of the business will generate little traffic except for cider delivery vehicles about twice a month. Because a proposed tasting room and retail space is small and parking is limited, they felt there are built-in limitations on how many customers they can accommodate.

Federal and state laws allow distilleries to have tasting rooms and to hold events. Town Planner Carol Horowitz noted, however, that town zoning laws require that such activities must be ancillary to the core business. The owners agreed that such events would be occasional.

When asked about waste disposal and groundwater safety, the owners and Alianello explained that two waste storage tanks will be buried at a location sufficiently away from the existing well and septic system. One tank will store biodegradable apple cider byproduct; the other will store cleaning and sanitizing waste. The second tank must be approved by the Cattaraugus County Health Department. Alianello said an engineering plan must be developed for both tanks and that he will work with the tank contractor to approve their location and construction.

Following closure of the public hearing, the planning board went through the SEQR review and determined the project would not negatively impact the environment. The board then approved the site plan and special use permit with several conditions, including a requirement to obtain planning board approval for any future expansion and a requirement for the owners to locate a disposal company or plant in advance that can receive tank waste.

New Business

The planning board also discussed an application from Steve Chaffee, owner of a property at 6199 Route 219, to construct an apartment above a garage that is currently under construction. Horowitz explained that the project can’t be considered an accessory apartment because accessory apartments can only be added if the main home is a single-family unit. In Chaffee’s case, the main home contains three apartments. Horowitz suggested that the board consider the property a Master Planned Development (MPD). She noted that the property has adequate parking and open space to meet the requirements of an MPD and that the garage apartment will have separate water and sewer from the main house.

The board agreed and moved to hold a public hearing on the MPD at the next meeting. That meeting will be held on Monday, Nov. 17, at 6 p.m. at the Town/Village Hall.