now seems to be the destination for farmers’ markets, according to Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell.
Russell told board members at a work session on Tuesday that three organizations have inquired about setting up this summer in the Town to sell produce and other food items. But these organizations want to set up shop at places like wineries and preserved land — which makes these markets dicey for the Town to approve, according to Leslie Weisman, head of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
With an application for a farmers’ market at currently on her desk, Weisman told the board that she did not feel comfortable signing off for approval under a code that does not currently address what she described as “creative marketing strategies” that various business people are trying to put in place on the North Fork.
“What I’m seeing now are retail-type endeavors on agricultural property, and I’m concerned about the frequency of these events,” Weisman said.
Laurel Lake Vineyards applied to host the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market indoors as a winter event, Weisman said. Though the Zoning Board approved a reoccurring outdoor at in Peconic last year, Weisman said that Laurel Lake’s application was a different animal.
“Lenz had all local food providers, it was a one-off type of thing and seemed to fall into code,” she said. “But now I’m seeing a lot of creative endeavors that seem fun and will attract a lot of people, but there is no standard definition in our code for what they are trying to do.”
Southold Town’s special event permit currently only addresses issues associated with single, stand-alone events — like the held for the past two summers on the grounds ofTown zoning inspector Damon Rallis said in an earlier interview with Patch that the town didn’t anticipate a winery such as hosting — nor a winery hosting a farmers’ market featuring only out-of-town vendors.
At Tuesday’s work session, Councilwoman Louisa Evans said that she saw an out-of-town farmers’ market as unfair to local growers, who are required to sell a certain percentage of what they grown at their own farm stands.
“And then we’re going to allow a winery to bring in products from Sag Harbor?” she said.
Supervisor Russell said that another organization from Brooklyn recently inquired about setting up a farmers’ market on the preserved parcel across from restaurant — an idea Councilman Chris Talbot didn’t exactly warm up to.
“So we have a guy from Brooklyn setting up shop and selling food across street from taxpaying restaurant?” he said.
Russell said that the premise of the Town code is that if something is not in the code then it’s not allowed, and that he’s not heard any local grower embrace the idea of farmers’ markets in town.
“Local farmers will have to start competing with other venues,” he said. “I don’t think we should allow something unless it’s a benefit to the industry as a whole.”
Though Weisman said she completely understands why business people want to be — and should be — creative in marketing, it is not up to her to decide what is or what is not a special event in her role on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
“I don’t want to hold up property owners because I’m scratching my head — ‘is this or is it not a special event,’” she said. “It’s very important for the board to be aware that the winery owners are trying to do the right thing by coming to us, but this is all new ground. The North Fork is growing with marketing ideas and we need to figure out how this development should occur.”