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Planning Board hosts hearings on additions to wineries, vineyards

11/20/2016 8:50 AM |

The Southold Town Planning Board held public hearings last week on several additions proposed to vineyards — discussions that took on greater meaning in the wake of Supervisor Scott Russell’s proposed moratorium on new wineries.

The additions, ranging from new winery buildings to a proposed agriculture storage barn, affect vineyards in Cutchogue and Southold. The discussion also came on the heels of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that limits development on preserved farmland through special permits and hardship exceptions.

Mr. Russell has cited the large number of wineries and breweries in town as reason to implement a moratorium while town code is reconsidered. His proposal, however, doesn’t appear to have support from the majority of the Town Board.

The Planning Board didn’t render a decision on any of the four applications during the Nov. 7 meeting. The proposals were as follows:

Ackermann Agricultural Barn

This application calls for the construction of an approximately 7,000-square-foot agricultural storage barn on 23 acres at 1350 Alvahs Lane in Cutchogue. The land’s development rights have been purchased by Southold Town.

Bill Ackermann, who owns North Fork Viticultural Services, grows grapes on nine acres at the site and also leases acreage from and/or manages six other vineyards in town. His application encountered opposition at the public hearing, with neighbor Marilyn Sawastynowicz saying the property’s development rights were sold to the town in 1998 to preserve it as a farm. She and other speakers said Mr. Ackermann’s proposed barn looks more “industrial,” which isn’t permitted on farmland where development rights have been purchased.

Ms. Sawastynowicz said the deed to the property restricts it to agricultural uses and added that Mr. Ackermann has cut down most of the trees there.

“The taxpayers have paid to protect those development rights,” added Alvahs Lane resident Diane Crosser. “This will change the rural character, not only of Alvahs Lane, but also of the North Fork.”

Ms. Crosser pointed to the recent state Supreme Court decision in which a judge ruled in favor of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, which had challenged a 2013 county law allowing some development — such as barns, greenhouses and solar installation — on land where the county had purchased the development rights.

Gwen Groocock, speaking for Mr. Ackermann, said NFVS manages 23 other sites and vineyards and use the same equipment for all of them, as it would be too expensive to have separate equipment for each site.

The costly equipment cannot be left outside, she said, adding that the town’s Farmers Bill of Rights specifically allows equipment storage buildings for land used in agricultural production.

Surrey Lane Vineyard

This proposal involves the construction of a 3,610-square-foot winery with a retail area and case storage — but no wine production — along with a farm stand with 39 parking spaces, on a 1.8-acre parcel at 46975 Route 25 in Southold. Plans include merging the site with 44 adjacent acres of farmland to which the county holds development rights.

Surrey Lane Vineyard currently has 17 acres of grapevines, according to Nancy Steelman, an architect representing the applicant. Ms. Steelman said the expansion would be designed to allow some special events, like weddings, but only small ones.

Applicants David and Liz Shanks received praise from several speakers for their civic involvement in the community, but others raised concerns about their project.

Theresa Ward of nearby Ackerly Pond Road said she felt the proposed winery building was too big and that traffic flow could be a problem. Another speaker said oversized limousines should be restricted at the site, while others were concerned about its proximity to a public park.

Mr. Shanks said Surrey Lane Vineyard sells only what it grows and that, while he doesn’t want to eliminate the possibility of hosting weddings at the site, he isn’t going to transform it into a “wedding place.”

“I don’t want to be Vineyard 48,” he said, referring to the controversial Cutchogue vineyard.

Sannino Winery and Tasting Room

This is an application to build a 2,800-square-foot winery on nine acres at 7495 Alvahs Lane, north of Route 48 in Cutchogue. The proposed facility would include space for wine production, along with a retail area, wine education room and storage space. There will be 40 parking spaces on two adjacent parcels that are proposed to be merged.

Applicant Anthony Sannino said he plans to host wine tours and classes at the site. He said he doesn’t want to rule out holding weddings there, but added that “it’s not currently in our business model.”

Mr. Sannino said he has held events for groups by appointment only, such as a recent Knights of Columbus event. He may have a single guitarist or flute player at the site, but he doesn’t plan to have “five-piece bands.”

One speaker raised concerns about music, although he said he fully supported the application. Two others expressed worry about traffic flow and selling wine at the site, which is near a residential area and two churches.

Purita Winery

This proposal calls for the creation of 2,600-square-foot addition to an existing 6,400-square-foot wine production building in order to expand wine production and storage on a .76-acre property at 5195 Old North Road in Southold. The applicant, Claudia Purita, plans to merge this property with an adjacent 2.7-acre reserve area that is attached to 18 acres of farmland on which the development rights have been sold to the county.

There were no speakers other than architect Ms. Steelman, who represents the applicant. She said there are already 16 acres of vines planted at the site and added that an existing home on the property will continue to be used as such.

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