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Harbes plans to add agricultural housing, relocate current home to help add parking

The Riverhead Town Board plans to approve a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting to allow Harbes-Old Fox Farm to move forward with the construction of agricultural housing units on its property north of Sound Avenue in Northville.

The plans call for the addition of two mobile homes each with two bedrooms, according to the application. The housing would be reserved for farm workers. The plan also calls for relocating a single-family residence that’s currently located in the Town of Southold. The two-story residence with four bedrooms in Mattituck would be relocated from its current position near the main farm stand to a spot farther west toward the back of the property in Riverhead Town. The property straddles the two towns.

Ed Harbes said at Thursday’s work session that relocating the house would help open up more parking. He said the house dates back to the early 1800s and has been lived in by farmers of the property for the last century.

“Parking has become a challenge for the farmstand operation,” he said. “We considered if we can find a place to relocate that house to move to the back of the farm … the site might be better used for parking and to just continue to get traffic off the road in that area.”

Harbes Family Farm has become a widely popular destination, particularly during peak seasons around the fall. That evolution from traditional farm to entertainment venue, however, has drawn criticism from neighbors in recent years. Harbes Family Vineyard, which is part of the overall property, ran into trouble from the New York State Liquor Authority last year for violating part of its liquor license.

Greg Bergman of the Riverhead Planning Department outlined the housing proposal Thursday. He said the house can be relocated without using any town roads.

“Just don’t do it on a muddy day going across those farm fields,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said.

Mr. Bergman said that if there was a reason for a town road to be used, that would need to be coordinated with the police department and LIPA.

Mr. Bergman said the applicant would need to obtain a rental permit and the units would be subject to annual inspections. A site manager also needs to assigned to oversee the ag worker housing.

“I think the applicant’s done a good job of addressing the issues with the health department and water,” Mr. Bergman said, adding that the Suffolk County Water Authority will provide service to the property even though it’s in the Riverhead Water District to facilitate the development.

The new mobile home units would be 14 feet wide by 70 feet long, according to the application.

The application received positive reviews from the board members.

Councilman Frank Beyrodt, a past president of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said it’s “imperative” for farmers to not only find workers, but keep them. And providing housing helps make that possible.

“I think this makes perfect sense,” he said. “I love the conditions of this — only for farm employees.”

Mr. Bergman said the application has received approval from the Riverhead Planning Board to construct three geenhouses on the property. The agricultural advisory committee reviewed the application last month and recommended approval, Mr. Bergman said.