A Southold couple who started one of the North Fork’s newest vineyards three years ago said they may have to shutter the business in the wake of an unfavorable zoning decision.
The town’s zoning board of appeals voted 5-0 to deny Regan and Carey Meador a variance to build a winery at Southold Farm + Cellar on Old North Road. The couple grows grapes on the 24-acre property, where they also live with their two young children.
Regan Meador said the March 17 ruling means the couple must close its tasting room and may be forced to give up winemaking in the town.
“I’m still shellshocked,” Meador, 36, said last week. “We had no idea that was coming when we bought this.”
A 400-square-foot barn on the site served as a tasting room, but town officials deemed it illegal in July. Tasting rooms are only allowed on properties with a winery, according to the town code.
Meador said he and his wife reopened the tasting room on weekends beginning in September, but closed it after the March 17 ruling. Without the ability to sell wine by the glass, he said, the family’s business is in trouble.
“This wasn’t gentleman farming,” he said. “When we bought this, it definitely needed to support itself. We’re kind of getting very close to that point of being tapped out.”
Development is allowed on just 1 acre of the site. The previous owners sold the rights to build on the rest of the property to a farmland preservation program.
Zoning board of appeals members ruled that 1 acre wasn’t enough space for both the family’s house and a wine processing building, which they said would require 160,000 square feet of developable land, or 3.7 acres.
Officials also cited concerns about traffic and noise in the neighborhood around the vineyard, described in their decision as a “quiet residential enclave.” They rejected the couple’s offer to ban limousines and buses, and limit the occupancy of the tasting room, writing that those restrictions would not prevent tourists from trying to drive there.
Regan Meador worked in advertising and finance in Manhattan before relocating his family to launch the vineyard near his wife’s hometown of Cutchogue. The couple envisioned a small, family-run operation that would specialize in wines uncommon to Long Island, he said.
Meador said the couple is “still processing the whole thing” and figuring out “how to stay afloat or around here.” He said he was not sure whether they will appeal the decision.
Zoning board of appeals chairwoman Leslie Kanes Weisman declined to comment through the board’s secretary.