With most permits in place for a new site plan approval for the Mattituck tasting location of Sherwood House Vineyards, owner Barbara Smithen and attorney Patricia Moore pushed the Southold Town Planning Board at a meeting Monday night to allow the winery to open for business pending Suffolk County Health Department approval of restroom facilities yet to be built.
Smithen and Moore have been working with the Planning Board for about two years to revamp the design of the Mattituck tasting site, located in the midst of grapevines on a corner parcel of preserved land between Oregon Road and Elijah’s Lane in Mattitick. Smithen and husband Charles planted those grapes in the mid-90s and operated a rustic, outdoor tasting facility for years before the town ordered the winery to cease and desist operations in 2010 due to concerns that the winery was not conforming to town code.
The new outdoor facility, which includes two patios, are not located on preserved land and parking has been relocated and is contained to onsite stalls. But because Sherwood is waiting for health department approval before building a restroom, Planning Board members debated whether to allow the winery to open for the tail end of this fall season.
Moore argued that two years of no business at this location has been a tremendous financial burden on Sherwood and that customers could use porta potties in the meantime.
“Every winery in town is allowed to have porta potties on site when there are excess customers — I don’t see why we can’t put them up until the permanent restroom is built,” Moore said.
Moore added that a tasting room proposed in July of 2011 by Lieb Cellars, which is located about two miles to the east of the Mattituck Sherwood location, is now open for business, while Sherwood, “with only open air structures is still slogging through this process.”
“We need relief,” she said.
Planning Board member James Rich said that he thought that the application needed to move forward at this point despite pending health department approval. Planning Board chairman Donald Wilsenski agreed that there has been hardship during this application process but he was concerned that this application would set a precedent regarding health department approval in the future.
“But this is the first application of its kind you’ve had to deal with,” Moore said. “It’s crucial that we open.”
What do you think? Tell us in the comment boxes below.