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Top Stories 2017: Fresh & Co. denounced by Orient residents

Orient residents rallied against Manhattan-based restaurant chain Fresh & Co.’s proposal to build a large barn and raise animals on farmland in the hamlet at a public hearing on the plan Sept. 11. 

Speakers packed Southold Town Hall, denouncing the proposal for the site, which calls for a 9,000-square-foot barn on a 34.5-acre tract the company announced it had acquired in August. Many called it a danger to nearby Hallocks Bay and the groundwater.

Fresh & Co., which has 15 restaurant locations for fast, fresh bites in Manhattan, looks to provide “farm-to-desk” dining. A company spokeswoman told The Suffolk Times after its announcement that being close to farms meant better access to locally sourced food and taking advantage of what’s in season.

No one at the hearing spoke in favor of Fresh & Co.

Former Orient resident John Holzapfel said the company’s application was filled with falsehoods and urged the Town Board to vote it down. Planning Board chairman Donald Wilcenski also took the podium and said he received a number of letters expressing opposition to the plan and that the town Trustees had concerns as well. The state Department of Environmental Conservation also wanted to be involved in the review process, he said.

Orient Association president Bob Hanlon said there was “grave concern” on potential damage to wetlands and water by livestock farming and the ability of the aquifer to support it.

The land was previously leased by the company and farmed by Dan Latham, who will continue to supervise agricultural operations there.

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Photo: Orient resident Dick Leslie stands up during Monday night’s Southold Town Planning Board meeting to express concern for Fresh & Co moving into his neighborhood. His neighbors joined him in holding up signs saying they are against the proposal. (Credit: Rachel Siford)