Board turns down zoning change in light of Red House spat

CASSADAGA — An initiative to change village zoning law to allow for a historical site event venue zoning designation is dead for now.

Trustee Cindy Flaherty was working with state and county planners on a proposal for a change to local law to create the category. She told the village board at Wednesday’s meeting that the officials she talked to thought the wording of the proposal was fine, but she wanted letters from their agencies formally stating that.

However, she felt the board should vote to see if she should seek those letters, or just stop the process.

“There’s no sense in me referring this if you don’t OK it,” she said.

Trustees Bill Astry and Flaherty voted “yes,” while Trustees Amanda Kalfas and Cindy Siebert voted “no.” That left it up to Mayor Mary Jo Bauer to break the tie, and she voted “no.”

Bauer explained that she thought the issue should be set aside for now as there is too much heat in the community over it. She was referring to the problems faced by the Red House, which spurred Flaherty’s initiative. The Red House is an event venue in a historic house that had to stop taking paid events when it was discovered it was in a residential, not business, zone. In June, the Cassadaga Zoning Board of Appeals denied it a variance that would have allowed it to continue as a for-profit establishment.

Nancy and Steve Wickmark, owners of the Red House, left quickly at the end of the meeting without comment.

Bauer said she wanted to leave room for the issue to be revisited in the future, when people have cooled down about it.

“Keep everything you have done. Don’t burn your paperwork,” she told Flaherty.

In other business, Flaherty reported beach attendance was 4,005 this year, almost double what it was in 2017. Some 297 people were at the beach on its busiest day, she said, and event attendance was well over 1,000.

Adding lifeguards for extra weeks at the end of summer was not a huge success.

“Only a few people attended, but it might be a case where it takes a while to catch on,” Flaherty said. “I want to try it again next year.”

As for the Labor Day festival, she pronounced the Ducky Derby, craft show, concert and food truck great successes. However, despite changing the time, the parade had low participation and attendance.

“We have to see if we want the parade to continue,” she said.