Town Hall Notes: More tweaking for winery events law

A draft local law to govern special events, such as concerts at wineries, is headed back for additional review, Town Board members said this week.

Although the town’s code committee released the proposed law last week, winery representatives who saw the draft voiced concerns over what they see as overly broad language used to describe an event that might require a town permit to proceed.

“If enacted in their current form, [the rules] would seriously impede our industry’s ability to engage in the type of direct marketing activities that have been so successful in drawing visitors to our region, generating revenue and jobs at wineries and many other businesses in the local economy,” Long Island Wine Council president Ron Goerler Jr. wrote in a letter to the Town Board.

Board members were receptive to the council’s concerns.

During Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Councilman Chris Talbot said Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue hosts weekly live music events that draw overflow crowds to its tasting room. Under the code as currently drafted, he said, each of those events would require a special events permit because they exceed the winery’s occupancy limits and feature live amplified music.

Supervisor Scott Russell said that’s not how the town envisioned the law working. While that winery’s recent NOFO Rock & Folk Festival would trigger a review, regular weekly music offerings should not.

“This is why we need to kick this back for one more discussion,” said Mr. Russell.

Councilman Vincent Orlando added that wineries have no way of knowing how many people will attend a free weekly music series.
Mr. Russell asked wine council executive director Steven Bate, who was in attendance with Mr. Goerler, to provide a detailed list of winery owners’ concerns.

Mr. Bate agreed.

“Is live music a permitted use? If you read the current code, it’s very restrictive,” he said.

Town Attorney Martin Finnegan said several other aspects of the proposed law also need to be tweaked. For example, he said, town Zoning Board of Appeals chairwoman Leslie Weisman had asked the town to consider having the Planning Board review the applications instead of the ZBA, but the Town Board has not yet approached the Planning Board about that idea.

Mr. Finnegan added that the fee for a special event permit, now $50, may also need to be reexamined since the time town employees spend reviewing event applications is worth far more than that.

The town has been working on a new application procedure for special events permits since last summer, with input from winery and business owners who were invited to join the town’s new special events committee last year.

Earlier this summer the town adopted its first noise ordinance, which also could have an impact on winery concerts. But since police still do not have noise meters, that code has yet to be put into effect.


At its Aug. 10 meeting on Fishers Island, the Town Board nixed Bicycle Shows U.S.A.’s pitch to hold a bike-a-thon on Southold roads on Aug. 28, but the board members reversed their decision Tuesday night because, after rejecting the event, they learned that the Greenport Fire Department had expected to make $18,000 serving food to the riders.

The town initially declined the event in part because the last time it was held, one rider sued the town after crashing into a storm drain.

“I’m going to amend it and let them bike around the Greenport Fire District only,” joked Councilman Chris Talbot Tuesday. “I don’t really care about 1,500 bikers coming to ride a bike around town from Manhattan.”

The board members are equally skeptical of a bid by a for-profit lacrosse tournament company from Saint James to hold an event at Strawberry Fields on Sept. 17.

“It becomes a quality of life issue,” said Mr. Russell. “They’re all good causes, but we can’t keep putting up events.”
Stressed recreation areas

It seems the town’s recreation spaces have been generally overtaxed this year. From Southold School’s use of the tennis courts at Cochran Park in Peconic to the proliferation of local soccer leagues to McGann-Mercy High School’s pitch to use Strawberry Fields for soccer games, Southold’s fields and courts are taking a beating.

The Town Board plans to schedule a meeting with school athletic directors and park district officials to explore ways to make access to available fields more equitable, in the hope that schools and park districts will allow more public use of their fields, thereby reducing the burden on town facilities.

“Strawberry Fields is almost constantly used, to the point where we can’t even top dress it. We can’t put seed down if people are going to be running over it constantly,” said town public works director Jim McMahon.


Southold is once again planning to assist hunters during the upcoming deer season. After last year’s successful pilot program, which placed a leased refrigerated truck behind the recreation center on Peconic Lane, the town will now buy either an outdoor refrigerator or a refrigerated truck where hunters can donate deer meat.

A butcher has also agreed to come to the center this year to help process venison for distribution to local food pantries. Last year, the refrigerated deer were taken up island for processing and the meat was donated to food pantries there.

Residents may also be able to pick up venison at the Peconic recreation center for their own use.

“I think you’ll have a line out the door waiting for it,” said Councilman Orlando.

Jeff Standish, the town’s deputy director of public works, told board members that 25 hunters have agreed to participate in the town’s year-round nuisance deer hunting program. That opens access to certain town properties throughout the year to cull the herd. The town also plans to partner with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to offer a hunter safety course this fall.

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