By Danny Schrafel
Grapes can be growing soon on a 10-acre parcel on the Northport waterfront.
Huntington’s planning board on June 17 granted conditional site plan approval for the growing of grapes on s 10-acre property at 29 Norwood Rd. near Crab Meadow Beach, but that approval requires applicant Frederick Giachetti to come back to the planning board for a second site plan approval when he’s ready to build a winery.
Giachetti will first grow corn for a season to prepare the soil for wine grapes, officials said.
The approval came after a threat by the applicant to pull the application over language in the resolution which required Giachietti’s venture, Del Vino Vineyards, to return to the board for site plan approval for a winery.
His attorney, Anthony Guardino, said that it’s unclear whether New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Markets will supersede the town planning board in reviewing the plans, and that requiring a return for site plan review in Huntington may ultimately prove superfluous.
“I don’t want to have the conditions state that we are going to have to have a site plan approved,” Guardino said on June 17. “I don’t know where this is going to take us going forward… we are coming back to this board. Whether or not we ultimately obtain site plan approval or not, I don’t know.”
Guardino suggested language that, rather than require a return visit for site-plan approval, the board ratify a narrow resolution that approved grape-growing only, and deal with the winery later.
“I think we get to the same place,” Guardino said.
Planning board attorney Thelma Neira, however, disagreed.
“They do have to come back for a site plan. It would benefit the planning board to have the resolution state their intentions so the applicant knows now,” she said.
Planning Board vice-chair Jane Devine urged the board not to yield its authority before the state weighs in.
“Why wouldn’t the flip of that work? If we say, site plan approval and then, if Ag and Markets comes down and says, ‘We’re usurping your right to have site plan approval;’ then we’ll back off. But I’m not ready to back off right now,” Devine said.
After briefly huddling with Giachetti during the back-and-forth, Guardino did not withdraw the application, and the board approved the resolution as initially proposed.
Also included in the conditional approval, town spokesman A.J. Carter said Tuesday, are requirements for a 10-foot natural buffer area along the eastern property line and five feet along the western line; no crop planting within 40 feet of Norwood Road and the northern property boundary, 30 feet of the eastern boundary and 25 feet of the western boundary; and no further development of the property or intensification of use, including farm stands, hosting public events, establishment of a processing facility or other operations, without site plan approval.
Giachetti, an attorney in Huntington, said he’s hoping to continue a family tradition that spans two centuries with his vineyard venture.
In a May Long-Islander News interview, Giachetti said his wife’s family has been wine makers and silk manufacturers for more than 150 years, and he’s been making homemade wine for many years using the family recipes.
In Northport, he’s hoping to grow Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer grapes, which will be produced in consultation with Mudd Vineyards. Giachetti previously said the soil and air drainage are ideal for growing grapes for wine.
Giachetti, previously earned approvals from Suffolk County’s Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board, which voted in favor of sending the project, which is near the Crab Meadow Golf Course and a nature preserve, to the full legislature for consideration. A public hearing was held June 16; the proposal goes back to the planning committee. If it’s voted out of committee there, it will go back to the full legislature for a vote, which could be as soon as July 28.