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Huntington Town officials blocking plan to open vineyard near school, attorney says

The future tasting house Frederick Giachetti on the

The future tasting house Frederick Giachetti on the land where he wants to start 10-acre vineyard and wine-tasting room on Norwood Rd. in Northport, Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. The plans have angered some residents who say the proposal is dangerous and inappropriate in the residential setting across from Norwood Avenue Elementary School, and near Crab Meadow Beach. Credit: Steve Pfost

A Huntington attorney seeking to open a boutique vineyard and tasting room near an elementary school is asking the state to intervene on his behalf, accusing town officials of stonewalling the project.

Frederick Giachetti had sought approval to operate Del Vino Vineyards on 10 acres at 29 Norwood Rd. in Northport.

Giachetti appealed to the state Department of Agriculture & Markets in a Feb. 5 letter to the agency’s commissioner.

“Several officials in the Town of Huntington have perverted the Town’s laws and processes and engaged in a calculated and oppressive course of conduct designed to stonewall Del Vino’s plans to operate its vineyard and winery,” Hauppauge-based attorney Anthony Guardino wrote on behalf of his client.

Del Vino is seeking a determination on whether officials overstepped state laws intended to protect New York farms.

Department of Agriculture officials issued a statement late Monday saying they received the letter and will formally review Giachetti’s complaint before issuing an opinion.

Town officials denied Del Vino’s claims.

“The Town of Huntington has acted properly at all times with respect to the procedures and processes related to the Del Vino Vineyard application,” A.J. Carter, a spokesman for Supervisor Frank P. Petrone, said in an email Monday.

In December, Petrone wrote a letter to the Suffolk County Legislature and called on lawmakers to repeal Del Vino’s inclusion in a county agricultural district. He said Del Vino’s agricultural status has limited the town’s zoning authority more than county lawmakers realized or intended.

Suffolk County Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said he does not expect the legislature to change its decision.

“There’s never been any precedent” for reversing an agricultural status after it has been granted, he said.

Giachetti also took issue with more than a dozen changes the town asked to be made to the site plan. In a letter dated Jan. 20, officials asked for a detailed environmental review and traffic study, among other things.

New York agriculture law precludes local governments from creating rules and regulations that “unreasonably restrict or regulate farm operations within agricultural districts.”

The law also includes a caveat for local government intervention in cases where public health or safety is threatened.

The vineyard’s location, next door to Norwood Avenue Elementary School, raised questions among planning board members at the December public hearing about what oversight power the public health and safety clause may afford them.

The Northport-East Northport school district has involved its own lawyers in fighting the vineyard.

“We’re going to have little kids all over the place, not just during the school days, but on weekends,” said John Gross, outside council for the district. “A traffic study is not inappropriate . . . I don’t think any of this is unreasonable.”


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