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.