Vineyard 48 fight continues with new charges filed

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Town officials said Vineyard 48 has erected four outdoor tents without applying for permits.

No noise complaints were filed, but Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue was slapped with new town code violations over the weekend.

Town officials said the winery erected four tents without seeking the required permits in direct violation of town code.

“From the town’s perspective, they are just completely ignoring the existing court order and the applicable regulations in the town code,” Town Attorney Martin Finnegan said Monday. “The Planning Board is very concerned over how Vineyard 48 intends to use the property.”

The vineyard has been the subject of ongoing legal battles over the past several years. On another front, the State Liquor Authority began investigating the vineyard in April after the business became the source of a laundry list of complaints, including loud music and patrons wandering onto neighboring properties and having sex in public.

In March the vineyard filed an amended site plan with the Planning Board. The proposal includes construction of a 40-by-100-foot outdoor pavilion with two walls. The pavilion is designed as a permanent structure that would replace the temporary tents the vineyard put up in recent years. The pavilion would provide extra seating and picnic tables and allow 276 occupants in addition to the 251 currently permitted.

“The town is taking the position that tent permits are not issued while a site plan application is pending and the Planning Board has made it very clear that it does not want any tents put up,” Mr. Finnegan.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | The vineyard served up pitches of sangria and beer in addition to bottles of wine and its tasting menu on Saturday.

The tents are not the only  violation, according to Mr. Finnegan.

Through its litigation against the vineyard, which the town claims is a nightclub business that’s not permitted by the Agriculture-Conservation Zone, the State Supreme Court has issued two temporary restraining orders against the business. One prevents the vineyard from offering DJ dance parties and the other limits on-site parking to the 34 spaces approved in the current site plan, the town attorney said.

“They are exceeding that limit at their current level of operation”, he said of parking. “Outdoor events with far more attendees than can be safely accommodated in the buildings on sight require a special event permit so that all impacts, including parking and traffic, can be controlled, but they are ignoring that process.”

The amended plan would mitigate theses issues, the vineyard’s attorney Patricia Moore said during a recent public hearing. The new site plan would also reconfigure the existing parking area and create an overflow lot with 100 additional spaces.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Ms. Moore said at the meeting. “All we can do is move forward. We are confident things will work themselves out. No complaints have been substantiated.”

Town officials say such assurances ring hollow.

“This shows a real lack of sincerity on any comments made before the Planning Board that they wanted to be good neighbors,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “The level of arrogance being shown by this operator is astounding to me and we’ll be discussing how to address it.”

Ms. Moore and the vineyard’s owners were not available for additional comment Monday.

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