New wrinkle in Cutchogue winery war

11/23/2012 5:00 PM |

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Southold police investigating a complaint against Vineyard 48 last summer.

Southold Town has opened a new front in its ongoing litigation against Vineyard 48, the North Road, Cutchogue, winery that has neighboring residents ready to blow their corks.

Although people living nearby have long complained about the vineyard’s loud amplified music and the rowdy behavior of some patrons, including urinating in the street and having sex in neighboring backyards, the town’s new approach focuses on a far less startling issue.

And that would be parking.

On Oct. 23, state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Pastoressa granted the town a new preliminary injunction that prohibits the vineyard from parking more cars on the property than specified in the Planning Board-approved site plan and requires that vehicles park only in designated spaces.

During business weekends, dozens of limos have parked in the vineyard’s lot, in between rows of vines and along adjacent streets. The site plan limits parking to just 34 spaces.

The parties are due back in court Dec. 5.

The town has long claimed that Vineyard 48 operates more as a nightclub than a vineyard. It began its summer season hosting DJ dance parties under a large tent. In May the town obtained a State Supreme Court temporary restraining order prohibiting the dance parties. During a July 12 court appearance Vineyard 48 failed to have the order lifted.

The vineyard stopped advertised dancing and put tables and chairs in the space where patrons previously gathered. Its advertising was changed to promote DJ wine tastings. Even so, neighbors say the noise and other problems continued well into the fall.

Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela previously said the vineyard’s operations gives the wine industry “a black eye.”

The business has dropped out of the Long Island Wine Council.

Vineyard 48’s attorney, Peter Sullivan of the New York law firm Sullivan Gardner, said this week that his clients have been complying with the original court order and following the parking limits.

He said, however, that Vineyard 48 is the only local vineyard that the town has required to comply with its original site plan.

“We expect to be able to continue to improve our relationship with the town and continue to operate without concerns,” Mr. Sullivan said. “We have spent the entire summer, with an enormous amount of effort, operating in a way that pleases our neighbors. We’ve made more effort than any winery in the area.”

The town’s attorney, Frank Isler, said Vineyard 48 does not dispute the fact that the business’ use has intensified over the past several years. Under town code, he said, that requires the vineyard to return to the Planning Board to seek a new site plan.

In the interim, he said, Vineyard 48 must live within the limits of its current site plan, which the planners approved in 2006.

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