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Crowds debate Fresh & Co. proposal in Orient

The Southold Town Planning Board closed the public hearing for the proposed Tenedios Agricultural Barn Monday night after lengthy discussions on possible uses, environmental impacts and visual impacts.

The plan calls for an 8,664-square-foot building to house livestock and store feed, supplies and farm equipment on 34.5 acres of farmland owned by Fresh & Co., a Manhattan-based restaurant chain, adjacent to Narrow River Road in Orient, but questions were raised about the need for a barn of that size.

“We believe [Mr. Tenedios] is not being truthful,” said Barbara Latham of Orient. “Why would he need an 8,664-square-foot barn for his animals that he claims are for his pleasure and personal use?”

She also cited concerns that there would be “agritainment” at the location, including cooking classes, petting zoos and other events.

Chris Baiz, chair of the Agricultural Advisory Committee, said that he himself has 8,500 square feet of agricultural buildings on his 22-acre property, so the proposal does not seem alarming to him.

“I cannot believe that this all stems from the landowner’s wish to construct a barn,” he said. “This is really overboard.”

He also pointed out that local farmers are not able to buy the land because it is too expensive, and that support for farming in the area is crucial.

“If we do this to one barn, and try to screw it over, what’s to stop it for the next one?” Mr. Baiz added. “Buyers are going to be more and more people from Manhattan.”

Attorney Patricia Moore spoke on behalf of Steve Tenedios, saying that he has been informed of what is allowed on the property. She said one third of the proposed barn will be used for winter animal housing, another third will be used for feed and storage, and another third will be used for equipment storage. Dan Latham of Orient is currently tilling the land for row crops, which is the only commercial section of the lot right now, according to Ms. Moore.

“The animals and husbandry that’s going on there is for family friends’ consumption,” Ms. Moore said. “It is for the most part a family farm, in the true sense of the word.”

He will be using Mr. Latham’s row crops at his restaurants in the city, but that is the only involvement with the Fresh & Co. chain, she said.

A major concern was the location, due to its proximity to wetlands, Narrow River and Hallocks Bay. Southold Town Trustees and the shellfish advisory committee said in a recommendation that the animal agriculture could lead to fecal coliform contamination, carried by stormwater runoff into Narrow River down to the bay, leading to shellfishing closures and other adverse effects.

Reed Super of Super Law Group spoke on behalf of a group of concerned citizens who live near the property.

“Commercial animal farming should not be allowed on this site and numbers of animals should be limited to those consistent with personal consumption,” he said. “He said he has no intention of farming animals commercially. The planning board should hold him to his word for environmental protection purposes.”

The board closed the hearing at the end of the meeting, but did not make a decision on the site plan approval yet.

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Photo caption: Chris Baiz, chair of the Agricultural Advisory Committee, spoke at the hearing. (Rachel Siford photo)