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Sherwood Vineyards Mattituck Location Will Not Reopen Until Spring

Planning board says no to porta potties at the open-air site closed since 2010; frustrated owner feels like a ‘guinea pig.’

Earlier this month, Sherwood House Vineyards co-owner Barbara Smithen asked the Southold Town Planning Board if they would grant her approval for a re-worked site plan for an open-air tasting facility in Mattituck, with all permits in place except Suffolk County Health Department approval of restroom facilities yet to be built.

Smithen, who ran her business for 12 years in the midst of grapevines on a corner parcel of preserved land between Oregon Road and Elijah’s Lane in Mattitick before having to close in 2010, pleaded her case to the board, saying that if the business could operate for a month or so left of the fall season with porta potties onsite, the revenue generated would help make up for the 30 to 40 percent lost during the past year and a half.

“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,” Smithen’s attorney Patricia Moore said to the Planning Board earlier this month.

The town ordered the winery to cease and desist operations in 2010 due to concerns that the winery was not conforming to town code, and this month the Planning Board did not grant permission for Smithen to finish out the 2012 season open for business in Mattituck.

“The department of health has told us in a letter that they will not approve this site to open for business unless they install a bathroom, so the Planning Board is not in a position to allow them to open prior to their receiving approval to move forward with the bathroom construction,” said Planning Director Heather Lanza this week. 

A frustrated Smithen told Patch Wednesday morning that she feels like she’s been “really picked on” by local government over an open-air site plan that she thought would be easier for the Planning Board to approve than one with actual buildings — such as tasting room proposed in July of 2011 by Lieb Cellars, which opened for business this month about two miles to the east of the Mattituck Sherwood location.

“We love the outdoor tasting room, but I realize now how different it is and I feel like a guinea pig," Smithen said. "Looking back, I should have built a building. I understand that the Planning Board’s job is to keep people safe — the roads safe, etc., and I understand that everyone needs a bathroom. But we were open for 12 years and it was fine — nobody was hurt. I just feel like we’re the flavor of the month and they’ve really picked on us.”

Smithen, who also owns a Sherwood House location on Route 25 in Jamesport, said she hopes to have the restroom completed and health department approval by March or April of next year.

mhorine1 October 24, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Total small-town shananigans. It's ridiculous this location, which was respectful of its environment and a great ambassador for LI wines, has been denied the right to conduct business. The Planning Board should be ashamed of itself, but they clearly have some mysterious ax to grind. Way to support local business.
joe insider October 24, 2012 at 08:42 PM
According to the news reports that were online at the time, the town issued a stop and desist because they were conducting the business on land they sold the development rights to. They took the money (ours by the way) and knew what the restrictions were when they cashed the check. That's another issue, however. In this case, the town planners can show some flexibility and let the porta-potties suffice until the bathrooms get built. While it is obvious they didn't want to follow any rules at first, they seem to be willing to now.
Bmattituck October 24, 2012 at 10:21 PM
I am perplexed at the idea that the town prefers a permanent structure. I am even more flummoxed that the town considers it a better idea to build bathrooms, with toilets, sinks and sewerage draining into the ground, rather than porta-potties that carted the waste away for proper disposal. Obviously, they are allowed to use the land for commercial purposes. We should encourage the sort of rustic, no-nonsense winery spots like Sherwood that cause no grief to our neighbors and our environment (and one that even some of us locals enjoyed visiting).
joe insider October 25, 2012 at 12:49 AM
I don't think you understand the article. The article states that it is "the department of health". A quick review of the facts and it is easy to determine that the department of health is actually a county agency, not the "town". By the way, an on- site septic system that is designed with modern technology is actually more environmentally friendly then a company that "carted the waste away for proper disposal. That usually means Bergen Point to be treated by an out of date treatment system then pumped out into the body of water near by.
Randese Leoni October 26, 2012 at 08:46 PM
We should all face it, vineyards are helping the North Fork to stay on the map.Kids who left to go to college are returning to be with their parents once again because there is a strong industry and certainly a diverse one.That is the Wine Region of Long Island.We should be proud of this industry, not try to destroy it.I wish the politicians of southold could take a trip to Napa or Sonoma and see how they treat the grape farmers. With the utmost respect!.instead of becoming a swamp,it is plush with vineyards,creating jobs after jobs after jobs.What,s wrong with that?and by the way,LI is now the fifth largest wine region in the United States.What.s wrong with that?and by the way..when one sells development rights to the town,it,s primarily to prevent ugly houses to be built and to keep the land agrilcultural.when are grapes not agricultural?

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