Sherwood House, Crystal Clear projects subject to health department review

SAMANTHA BRIX FILE PHOTO | Sherwood House Vineyard's new tasting shed will be subject to health department review.

Sherwood House Vineyards and Crystal Clear Cleaning Corp. must both undergo county health department review before their town applications can be approved, Southold Planning Board members said Monday.

The health department’s involvement would further delay the projects, both of which have sparked controversy.

Sherwood House, on Oregon Road in Mattituck, plans to build two patios for an outdoor wine tasting area that will replace a wine tasting shed. Its owners are currently in litigation with the town over their use of that shed, which sits on preserved land. Their new plan would relocate the wine tasting area to a portion of the property that has not been preserved.

The vineyard’s attorney, Patricia Moore, has insisted that the project does not require health department review because it is not inside a building. But town planner Brian Cumming said at Monday’s Planning Board work session that he received a call from health department engineer Craig Knepper, who said his department will need to review the project anyway because “wine and beer tasting is assigned a sewage flow.”

Ms. Moore said her clients will likely re-open the seasonal wine tasting shed in the spring if they need to take the extra time to go through health department review.

The town previously obtained a court injunction prohibiting the use of the tasting shed and vineyard owners Charles and Barbara Smithen have sued to force the Planning Board to approve their pending site plan.

“We’re at odds right now. The goal here is to resolve the litigation, not to continue it,” said Ms. Moore. “This costs the town money. It costs the applicant money, all for what is essentially a lemonade stand here.”

Planning Board chairman Don Wilcenski said it is the board’s responsibility to protect taxpayers.

“We’re not trying to slow the process down,” he said. “This is the first [application] of its kind. We are doing our due diligence.”

Ms. Moore argued that the board is placing an unwarranted obstacle before an existing business.

“They’ve been operating there for over 10 years,” she said. We need to think outside of the box on this one. Is the taxpayer going to continue to fund litigation on two separate cases? I think they’ve really bent over backwards to try to make peace with the town.”

Another of Ms. Moore’s clients, Crystal Clear Cleaning Corp., is looking to establish an office in an existing two-story garage on the company’s New Suffolk Road property.

Ms. Moore said her clients were under the impression they didn’t need to go to the health department for review. She asked if the Planning Board could approve the project with the stipulation that health department approval be in place before the building department issues a certificate of occupancy.

“This will delay the building process four months,” she added. “They have to relocate and they have to rebuild.”

Planners, however, said they wouldn’t know how the site should be configured until they received guidance from the health department on its sanitary flow requirements.

Board members were also concerned that two trees on the property had been cut down in the middle of the site plan process, after neighbors raised concerns over the visual impact of the property’s use as headquarters for the cleaning company and its vans.

They asked that the trees be replaced with five- to six-inch caliper zelkova trees and that a double row of evergreens six to seven feet high be placed along the front of the property.

“We want to hide all the commercial vehicles in back,” said Mr. Wilcenski.

“Why were the two trees cut down in the middle of the process?” asked board member Jim Rich.

“I have no idea,” said Ms. Moore.

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