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Typo delays vote on agricultural processing proposal

A much-anticipated vote on whether to allow on-site agricultural processing at local farms was put on hold for another two weeks because of a typo in the minutes.

An eagle-eyed resident brought it to the Town Board’s attention at its meeting Tuesday afternoon, pointing out that the online minutes of the May 7 meeting listed the next vote on agricultural processing to be held on June 4.

After entering into a brief executive session, town attorney Bill Duffy advised the Town Board not to vote on the proposal. “It would be unfair to those who read the minutes packet for the board to take action,” he said.

Several members of the farming community attended Tuesday’s meeting to again voice their support for the code change. 

Chris Baiz, chairman of the town’s agricultural advisory committee and co-owner of The Old Field Vineyards in Southold, urged the board to approve the change. “By passing this, we’re demonstrating to our children and to our grandchildren that there will be a future in agriculture for them and they don’t have to go off to the city or leave town in order to find decent employment,” he said, addressing the board.

The code change would permit “the accessory use of the processing of agricultural products on a parcel containing a bona fide farm operation” and outlines that the square footage of any agricultural building may not exceed 1.5% of the total parcel size and that at least 66% of the agricultural products being processed must be grown on-site. 

Critics of the law have expressed environmental concerns along with fear that unscrupulous landowners could take advantage and begin large-scale operations.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell apologized to the agricultural community over the error.

Kathryn Sepenoski of Sep’s Farm in East Marion was disappointed that the vote was postponed. “Shame on you all for not checking [the minutes]. This affects the livelihood of the largest industry in this community,” she said. “Make sure you check what’s in there tonight.”

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