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Code change could allow roadside shellfish stands in Southold

Roadside shellfish stands could soon crop up in Southold Town as officials begin drafting legislation to allow shellfish farmers to sell their product on land.

As is stands, shellfish farmers who seek to sell their oyster and clams must do so out on the water, where they are grown.

The proposed code change would level the playing field for aquaculturists and land-based farmers with regard to setting up farm stands.

“[The code] is going to allow these guys to sell ‘on the beach,’ as we like to say, rather than have to sell wholesale and lose 50 percent of their potential market value,” said Chris Baiz, who owns The Old Field Vineyards in Southold and chairs the town’s agricultural advisory committee.

Longtime shellfish farmer Karen Rivara, who owns the Aeros Cultured Oyster Company in Southold, said the option to sell directly to their consumers will ensure the industry’s viability.

Under the proposal, shellfish could be sold on properties less than two acres at roadside stands — similar to how many people sell eggs, Ms. Rivara pointed out.

Bona-fide shellfish growers would also be permitted to establish farm stands on two or more acres of land, though the draft proposal did not address where those two acres must be.

During Tuesday’s work session, Supervisor Scott Russell suggested the farm stands be limited to agriculturally zoned areas.

“I don’t want to be too restrictive but at the same time, I don’t want people to think that you can land a 3,000-square-foot farmstand anywhere you want in Southold Town,” he said.

Regardless of the type of stand, farmers would need to be subject to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Suffolk County Health Department review and permitting.

Similar to land-based farm stands, 60% of the products would be grown by the farmer. The other 40% could complement the products, such as T-shirts, shucking knives and lemons.

Ms. Rivara estimated that there are approximately 20 local growers who could benefit from the code change.

On-site consumption was not included in the draft and would require further approval from the health department as well as be subject to site plan review. Ms. Rivara said she wanted the code to be reflective of what farmers are looking to do at the present.

“No one has expressed interest,” in establishing an on-site type of stand, she said.

The proposal will move through to the code committee, where members will likely focus on defining where farm stands will be allowed and other terms.

Mr. Baiz described the measure Tuesday as a “brilliant incentive” that will help the industry continue to grow.

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