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With Winery Activities Expanding, Town Asked to Reconsider Code

Head of the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals asks Town Board members to tweak special events legislation sooner than later.

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.”

Lenn Thompson February 29, 2012 at 06:53 PM
I'm far from an expert on local codes, but the comment that they are required to sell a certain percentage of what they grow at their farm stands doesn't make sense. They don’t have to sell anything if they don’t want to, right? And they can certainly sell their locally grown produce at ANY so-called “out of town” farmers market I think. Who is stopping them from going to Sag Harbor and selling Southold produce? Probably not Sag Harbor zoning rules. “And then we’re going to allow a winery to bring in products from Sag Harbor?” Allow? My understanding is that (farm) wineries don’t need a permit to sell NY produce, regardless of where it is grown. By pushing entrepreneurs from Brooklyn and elsewhere elsewhere (Riverhead?) Southold is doing itself a disservice. Is it possible someone would go to a farmer’s market in New Suffolk and stop for lunch at tax-paying Legends? “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.” I don’t think that protecting the farms of Southold from competition from neighboring communities or their own neighboring farms is in the best interest of either the consumer living here or the consumer visiting here. Benefiting ‘whole industries’ is not what government exists for; it’s to benefit the citizens. Isn't this protectionism?
Frank T February 29, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Great points Lenn. A farmers market in New Suffolk would be a great location and would definitely bring new business to Legends. I went to the beach near Legends last summer and walked along the waterfront and that area is depressed. There's a vacant building and debris and weeds all along the waterfront. Legends did a great job remodeling but the overall location is not a place I would like to revisit.
mcshaded March 01, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Maybe the farmers should sell wine from California and have dj music by the farm stands! That'll bring the people in, right? Maybe hardware stores should start selling fish too?
mhorine1 March 01, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Sag Harbor is hardly California. Same with Brooklyn. I would assume (and would love to know if I'm right) the Brooklyn folks would bring in products not currently available here (Ricks Picks pickles, etc.) and also sell local (North Fork) produce alongside them. And yes, if I were going to the farmers market, it would make sense that I would make an excursion out of it...visit the beach, have lunch at Legend's, maybe even (gasp) by something at the little gift shop beside Legend's.
James Harris March 03, 2012 at 11:15 AM
A rising tide lifts all boats - the more opportunities to showcase(such as events at wineries or farms and farmers markets) and sell(even alongside items from other parts of the state) agricultural products, restaurants and our area, the better for everyone. When people visit the North Fork, they need to see not only the natural beauty, but also a vibrant business and agricultural community working together - it makes good business sense. To read articles that suggest the local government does not understand this and instead continues to foster a business vs agriculture culture begs the question - why can't local government work towards solutions that help everybody rather then picking winners and losers. Also, if there is any question how or why decisions are made what is the methodology ? Is there any evidence that a person going to a farmstand won't also go to a restaurant? I for one love eating at home and I also enjoy going out to eat. For most people who visit the North Fork, I assume the same holds true, but it is hard to imagine that no one has studied these questions.
Sheila Scharfman May 24, 2012 at 02:44 PM
I agree!The town should charge fees for those limited use permits to offset the taxes that are not gained. Businesses that bring pleasant consumers and customers to the area ultimately benefits all.. even if a person shops the temporary farm stand today, they will now see the area and might very well be back to the restaurant next week, or tell the friends about it; if the area is interesting and attractive people tend to return and spread the money around. i am a Southold home owner and a Brooklyn resident and live 2 blocks away from a single street that houses 2 large pizza restaurants with a 3rd under construction..... Apparently, attracting tourists and others to the block seems to be helping ALL the businesses, even those directly competing with each other.
CapnJB July 04, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Of course this requires planning to make right turns only to get around town... who pays for the extra services that are engaged for instance Police and EMS? Yup the local residents take the beating... in the pocketbook! The town could never charge enough to cover the extra costs to the township and fire districts that provide emergency services... Their is way more to the puzzle than just making more money for the quazi-agricultural businesses.

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