Proposed zoning change would allow easier path to construct processing facilities

Southold farmers are nearing an agreement that would allow them to process their products on-site.

The Agricultural Advisory Committee discussed the proposed changes to the town’s zoning law that would allow processing facilities up to 3,000 square feet to be constructed without being subject to site plan review.

Processing could include salsa produced from tomatoes, potato chips and jam.

“It’s neat and simple,” said committee chair Chris Baiz of the proposed code change. “There are some limitations. One is that on-farm agricultural processing buildings will be allowed on parcels that are already established as bona fide farm operations,” he said.

Any proposed buildings larger than 3,000 square feet would be required to seek site plan approval.

Two thirds of the raw products used at the processing site would have to be sourced from that farm, Mr. Baiz said.

“That’s where we were able to meet in the middle,” he said. “For every two truckloads of our own farm operation, I can have one truckload from some other farm.”

That minimum requirement could be alleviated in case of hardship, such as crop failure.

During Tuesday’s work session, officials discussed whether wine grapes would be included in the change.

Supervisor Scott Russell noted that while this would not apply to wineries with tasting rooms and retail components, processing is allowed.

“You can process grapes grown on site through that structure,” he said.

Under Southold Town Code, “processed agricultural products” are defined as products that have been converted from its original state through cooking, distillation, fermentation, crushing and straining.

This iteration of the code change does not address how processing facilities would work in the aquaculture industry.

“There’s unique circumstances there,” Mr. Russell said.

The committee and Town Board agreed to move forward and address the aquaculture industry separately.

“Nowhere do I want to shortchange growers who grow in the water from being able to do what they need to do to survive in the business,” said Councilman Bill Ruland.

Mr. Baiz said the committee plans to return before the Town Board to discuss the needs of marine-based farmers.

“[The industry] just needs a way to find a home base on land.”

[email protected]