Winery Owner to Challenge Cambria Supervisor in Primary

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By: Tony Farina

The co-owner of a winery who feels her business was targeted by a new zoning ordinance approved by the Town of Cambria last week is taking political aim at the 28-year incumbent supervisor, telling the Niagara Reporter she is circulating petitions to challenge Wright Ellis in the upcoming Republican primary June 25th.

“I feel the new ordinance which requires a $250 application fee for certain special events was aimed at our business,” said Shane Gustafson who co-owns the Baer Rd. winery, A Gust of Sun, with her husband Erik.

The ordinance passed by a 3 to 2 vote even though most of those in attendance at the public hearing were against approval, said Gustafson.  Even though Supervisor Ellis voted against the ordinance, Gustafson said Ellis was definitely on the other side.  

Only one nearby Baer Rd. resident spoke in favor of the ordinance at the meeting, complaining that the winery at times was a nuisance with noisy visitors, loud music, and vehicles driving over his lawn.

Gustafson, during an interview at her well-kept Gust of Sun offices, said the complaining neighbor’s problems had been addressed and she feels her business was unfairly singled out by the new ordinance which puts a $250 price tag on special events even though many of the neighbor’s claims were lacking in merit.

“I feel we were targeted,” said Gustafson, “and that’s part of the reason I’ve decided to run for office.  I plan on a campaign supporting business and government transparency, and I also want to protect the rural and farming history of this community and not allow farming properties to be divided up to make way for housing developments.”

Gustafson, as she prepares for the full opening of her winery business next month, has already begun circulating petitions for the primary.

“That’s her choice,” said Supervisor Ellis about facing a challenge from Gustafson.  “I understand where she’s coming from but we’re not trying to knock out farms but all of the other wineries have vineyards, and her’s does not have 51 percent of its product grown on its property.”

“They’ve never asked us about that,” responds Gustafson, “and besides, we would not be the only winery not producing 51 percent, that’s him not knowing and not caring.”

There is a small vineyard at the rear of the Gust of Son property and a production building next to the family’s home on the well manicured and neatly maintained winery property with room for banquets, weddings, bridal showers, family reunions, and birthday parties.  

Gust of Son is one of the 21 stops on the winery tour and Gustafson is looking forward to the coming season despite the new ordinance and the political campaign she has begun in earnest.

“We are still making some minor adjustments in the ordinance, but nothing substantive,” said Ellis during an interview this week.  He said the special events’ $250 permit does not apply to normal activities. 

“It is a winery that doesn’t produce its own grapes,” said Ellis, noting an SLA license was not enough without that production and state marketing and agricultural regulations take precedent.  Again, Gustafson said the town has never asked nor does it have any information about just how much production goes on at Gust of Son or the other wineries.

Both sides are expected to keep up the debate as the campaign unfolds, with Ellis perhaps facing a stern challenge after 28 years in office from a determined businesswoman who says it is her goal to protect the farmland and rural nature of the Town of Cambria, and that includes her property which has operated for more than seven years in a pristine setting and a popular stop on the wine tour.

 

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