By Jano Tantongco
The planned Del Vino Vineyard took another step into fruition after the town’s planning department conditionally approved the project’s site plan during its Nov. 2 meeting.
Frederick Giachetti, owner of the property on Norwood Road in Northport, faced opposition from both the Northport-East Northport School District -- which operates the directly-adjacent Norwood Avenue Elementary School -- and the town in regards to his plan.
He wants to renovate an existing building on the property to create a 7,189-square-foot winery buildinghat would process grapes into wine and would also host events in its tasting room.
Giachetti added that he’s planted 8,000 vines in the ground, an assortment of pinot grigio, cabernet blanc and sauvignon blanc.
“For us, the big thing is...wine is our family’s passion. All we’re looking to do is share it with our family, friends and neighbors,” Giachetti said. “We’re very, very excited about it.”
Giachetti called the 25 covenants and restrictions placed on the property by the planning board “a great compromise between balancing the equities for the community and also the rights that I have as the property owner.”
He continued, “The town, through a great deal of effort and cooperation with the state mediating, did a very professional job here.”
Out of a list of 25 covenants and restrictions, one of the restrictions imposed relates to the management of special events.
The resolution defines “special event” as any event or simultaneous events that exceed 145 people, or the maximum occupancy of the public portion of the tasting room -- whichever is less.
Because of “real potential for ongoing negative impacts from conducting an unlimited number and size of special events in this residential area,” the planning board implemented a series of restrictions specifically dealing with special events.
Regarding special events, the winery will be limited to a maximum of 30 per year, with a maximum of one per day. Special events may only take place from 12 noon-10 p.m. On days when Norwood Avenue Elementary School is in session, events are prohibited before 4 p.m. Events also cannot exceed 215 people in attendance.
In the list of conditions, there are also rules to manage stormwater management procedures; mandate a minimum of 60 parking spaces, with the ability to park up to 86 using a valet service; and prohibiting buses to park on the property, except school buses for educational purposes.
Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone stated that “significant progress” has been made, but believes “the county should have withdrawn the agricultural designation.”
In 2015, the county gave the patch of land designation as an agricultural district. The state also designated the land as an agricultural district. Petrone then appealed to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to intervene, citing issues of safety in terms of the nearby elementary school. The state sided with Del Vino and upheld the designation, allowing Giachetti to abide by more relaxed requirements.
“We presented information to them, and they did not pull it back,” Petrone stated. “That’s their call. What we have done now is what we can do given that hurdle that was put in front of us.”
Neighbors Split On Winery
When he steps out onto the porch of his Norwood Road home, Larry Brittan now sees the empty, dilapidated farm house that’s soon to be renovated if the Del Vino Vineyard project goes forward.
“This is what we’ve been basically looking at for the last couple of years,’ he said. “It’s really been an eyesore…”
Working in sponsorship sales, Brittan, 52, believes the winery building would fit in with the community if constructed, as long as disturbances are limited.
“As long as it’s not this huge business that’s getting lots of cars, traffic and things like that, we’re probably okay with it,” Brittan said.
However, several houses down from him lives Tom Ryan, who opposes the project. A retired accountant, he said he plans to plant a row of evergreen trees on his property line, “just so [he doesn’t] have to look at it.”
Ryan, 61, said he watched the town board hearings regarding the project, since he was away when they took place.
“It got rammed down our throat. It’s completely inappropriate for a residential neighborhood,” he said. “To have tour buses coming in and out every week, the whole thing’s ridiculous.