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Southold Farm + Cellar denied ZBA variances; is ‘effectively closed’ to public

Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals chair Leslie Kanes Weisman. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

The Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals has denied Southold Farm + Cellar’s request for variances, casting doubt on the winery’s future.

The denial means the business cannot construct the winemaking facility it had proposed for its Old North Road property. It also means Southold Farm + Cellar will have to shut down its tasting room.

“Our hearts are broken, to say the least,” winery co-owner Regan Meador wrote in an email following the decision, adding that the business is now “effectively closed to the public.”

“We do not know what will come next or how/if we will be able to carry on, but we will certainly let you know when we do,” he continued.

During a special meeting Thursday evening, ZBA members voted unanimously to deny an appeal from the winery seeking two variances on its property. One variance would have allowed the winery building to be set back 60 feet from the road, instead of the code-required 100 feet. The other would have allowed the Meadors’ house and winery to exist on the same parcel.

 “I think in the end, what we really have to weigh is that the conditions really can’t compensate for the grossly undersized substantial variance,” ZBA Chairperson Leslie Kanes Weisman said moments before the vote. “It doesn’t matter if [the winery] is quiet.”

Regan Meador at a December public hearing. (Credit: Chris Lisinski)
Regan Meador at a December public hearing. (Credit: Chris Lisinski)

Mr. Meador now has the option of filing an appeal against the ZBA.

 “We were trying to see what we could do here and our hands were tied,” Ms. Weisman said. “And I think the applicant’s hands were tied.”

The future of Southold Farm + Cellar has been in doubt since July, when the small-production winery, which opened in 2014, closed its tasting room at the request of the town’s building department. At the time, Michael Verity, Southold’s chief building inspector, said the business was operating with only a certificate of occupancy for a single-family dwelling.

“They should never have been open,” Mr. Verity said last summer.

Not long after it voluntarily ceased operations, the Meadors reopened Southold Farm + Cellar’s tasting room on weekends. Late last year, the winery filed an appeal seeking the variances.

The future of the Old North Road winery is now up in the air. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
The future of the Old North Road winery is now up in the air. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Southold Farm + Cellar attorney Patricia Moore argued during a December public hearing that several other properties have received town approval for similar projects. Among the examples she gave were 8 Hands Farm in Cutchogue, which processes cheese on the same piece of land where there is a residential dwelling.

“It is outrageous that on the smallest of farmers in town, the smallest of the wineries, you’re imposing a restriction intended specifically to try to impede this business,” Ms. Moore said.

During the December hearing, Mr. Meador suggested attaching the following conditions to any variances granted: no buses or limousines allowed on his property, no special events such as weddings, and a hard number limiting the number of occupants to the number of available parking spots.

Earlier this month, the future of the winery hit another potential snag when the New York State Liquor Authority sent the Meadors a notice about a hearing to potentially revoke or cancel their existing liquor license. That hearing is scheduled for April 4.

Caption: Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals chair Leslie Kanes Weisman at last month’s hearing. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo, file photo)

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