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Town requiring Croteaux Vineyards to seek approval for winery

Croteaux Vineyards

Croteaux Vineyards is seeking approval from the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals to continue winery operations, which have been underway at the South Harbor Road business for nearly a decade.

Co-owner Michael Croteau applied for a variance in July after being notified by the town of a code requirement that calls for a winery to “be on a parcel [in] which at least 10 acres are devoted to vineyard or other agricultural purposes,” according to a notice of disapproval issued to by the town building department. Croteaux, which produces rosé wine exclusively, has been operating since 2007 without the variance or site plan approval, according to documents sent to the vineyard.

“The issue is that there are two separate parcels that would be contiguous if it wasn’t for South Harbor Road dividing the two of them,” Mr. Croteau explained Monday in a phone interview. “I can’t merge them. I can’t do anything and all I’m doing is basically going for the ZBA to just have them recognize those two parcels as us being able to qualify for the 10-acre requirement.”

Croteaux has 12 acres of vineyards split between the two parcels. The tasting room is on the smaller property, a 4.65-acre lot.

“We obviously have an issue of the 10-acre piece with our parcel where the farm winery license is and if not for South Harbor Road they’d be contiguous, so I’m hoping it’s not much more than a technicality and we can get through it and proceed with this if we have to do anything else after that,” Mr. Croteau said. “But until that gets settled, there’s nothing else that can happen.”

Mr. Croteau said he has met with the building department, Planning Board and ZBA since submitting the application for a variance in July, the request is scheduled for a Jan. 5 hearing.

“The town has been really cooperative in working with us on this, so we’ll see what happens and go do our presentation,” Mr. Croteau said.

During a Dec. 5 work session, as it discussed comments it would submit to the ZBA, Planning Board members questioned the terminology in the variance request. The application asks for a permit to legalize an “as-built” tasting room — and a notice of disapproval from the building department also calls it that — but that is not a term used in the code, Southold Town principal planner Mark Terry said.

If the property is a winery and is located in the Agricultural Conservation zone, it should be referenced as a winery throughout the record, Mr. Terry said. In addition to meeting the 10-acre requirement, the winery must also obtain site plan approval, according to the notice of disapproval.

“Terminology is very important,” Mr. Terry said. “We’ve got distilleries, we don’t have that in the code. We have breweries, we don’t have that in the code. And tasting rooms, it’s an accessory use to a winery.”

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Photo: Croteaux Vineyards. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)