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Hearing set for roadside shellfish stands

Southold residents will have an opportunity to weigh in on a proposed code change that could allow shellfish farmers to sell their products at temporary roadside stands.

The Town Board held a special meeting last Thursday to set a hearing for Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m.

Under the proposed code, shellfish farmers would be able to sell their products at roadside stands, akin to how eggs or cut flowers are currently sold.

Currently, those who raise shellfish on underwater property and want to sell their products must do so directly on the water — where they are grown — or sell wholesale, sacrificing some of their market value.

The town’s agricultural advisory committee had petitioned the town several years ago, asking that the code be relaxed to allow the seafood stands.

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

The proposed code acknowledges the “unique challenges” faced by aquaculture operations in selling their product, compared to agricultural farm operations who can take advantage of on-farm marketing opportunities.

The proposed code would allow temporary display areas up to 100 square feet to be located at the primary residence of the owner of an aquaculture or mariculture operation. A refrigeration unit not exceeding five cubic feet in size would be allowed, but no generators would be permitted, according to the proposed legislation.

It would also allow the stands to be set up at farm parcels located on Route 25 or County Road 48.

“At the risk of commercializing residential communities, [shellfish growers] should have the provision to move it to a high visibility area,” Supervisor Scott Russell said in an interview after the meeting last Thursday.

He noted that selling locally produced seafood is already permitted under the town’s farm stand code, which allows up to 40% of products sold at farm stands to be produced by other local growers.

In 2017, the Town Board adopted an amendment to the town’s agriculture code that defined roadside stand as “a display area less than 100 square feet in area located on a parcel on which fruits, vegetables or plants are home grown and sold to the general public.”

Karen Rivara, who owns the Aeros Cultured Oyster Company in Southold, said at an Aug. 27 Town Board work session that the measure will ease some obstacles for those in the industry. 

“Because our farms are underwater, we can’t set up a roadside stand,” she said.

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