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Southold vineyard weighs options after zoning board denial

The courtyard at Croteaux Vineyards in Southold, pictured

The courtyard at Croteaux Vineyards in Southold, pictured on July 28, 2015, is French-inspired. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A Southold vineyard is weighing the options for continuing its winery operations after Southold’s Zoning Board of Appeals denied the owners’ request for a variance that will allow it to stay open.

The board rejected Croteaux Vineyards’ variance request to legalize an “as-built” tasting room/retail wine sales operation on its 4.65-acre property on South Harbor Road.

Co-owner Michael Croteau, 57, of Southold, said Friday that he became aware in June 2016 that the vineyard was not in compliance with a town zoning law requiring winery and tasting room facilities to have a minimum of 10 acres devoted to vineyard or other agricultural purposes.

Croteau, who purchased the property in 1992 and owns a separate 9.4-acre farm across the street, said Friday that he had hoped the ZBA would allow him to use both properties to satisfy that requirement for the variance.

“I was simply asking the ZBA to rule that those 14 acres would satisfy the 10-acre requirement that the town has,” he said. “They decided that 14 is less than 10, apparently.”

The board issued its ruling on July 6. ZBA chairwoman Leslie Kanes Weisman did not return calls for comment Friday. In its decision, the board cited several reasons for its denial, among them that the variance would “produce an undesirable change in the character of the neighborhood and a detriment to nearby properties.”

Croteau disagreed and cited letters of support from several neighbors and surrounding businesses. He said he knew of only one complaint, from a neighboring homeowner, about his operations.

Croteau said he and his attorneys are continuing to work with other Southold town officials, whom he described as “very cooperative” and the town attorney, and will be exploring ways to keep the winery open.

“We’re looking at [all the options], and until all of those things have been exhausted, we’re hoping the town will allow us to continue to operate,” he said.

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