Town Board members disagree on potential effects of farmstand regs

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Bayview Market and Farmstand on the Main Road in Aquebogue.

A proposal to broaden the definition of what can be sold at farmstands and wineries in Riverhead Town’s Agricultural Protection Zone was debated by Town Board members at last Thursday’s public work session.

Some board members said the change is needed by farmers; others said it would open a loophole that could lead to pizza and sushi being sold as farm products.

The proposal came from the town’s agricultural advisory committee and pertains to accessory uses to agricultural operations.

Under the proposal, “the direct marketing of locally produced agricultural products, enhanced agricultural product, hand-made crafts, roadside pick-your-own operations and agri-tourism” would be considered permitted accessory uses to farm operations.

The current definition allows only “the sale at retail of homegrown or homemade products” and requires that farmstands be located on at least seven contiguous acres of farmland.

The proposed change would reduce that number to two contiguous acres, but farmers would still be required to have a total of seven acres of farmland in the Town of Riverhead.

Town Board members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen support the proposed change. Ms. Giglio said there are currently more than 97 parcels in the Agricultural Protection Zone that are larger than two acres but less than seven and, thus, could not have farmstands under the current rules.

“Why include those parcels in the APZ if they can’t use them?” she asked.

Supervisor Sean Walter said he fears that two-acre residential properties along Sound Avenue will open farmstands selling everything from pizza to sushi under the guise of agriculture.

Mr. Gabrielsen said the proposed law would require applicants to meet the qualifications for an agricultural tax exemption, which require annual agricultural production of at least $50,000.

Mr. Walter said the town needs to tighten up the definitions in the proposed change, because the way it’s written now, “I could drive a truck through this.”

Mr. Gabrielsen said the town could specify in the proposed zoning what types of uses it doesn’t want.

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