Microbrewery runs into opposition at Riverhead ZBA meeting

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The former Northville School House on Sound Avenue.

A proposal to convert what was once the Northville School House on Sound Avenue into a microbrewery ran into opposition from several civic and environmental organizations at a public hearing before the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals Thursday night.

The applicant is “McCarthy’s on the Green,’ which is owned by Tim McCarthy of Lake Grove and George Greene of Wading River. The building is owned by John Reeve Jr. and McCarthy’s would be tenants.

The News-Review was at the meeting. Here’s some of what was said:

• Mr. McCarthy said the company plans to buy, rather than grow, the ingredients needed to make the beer. He envisions the microbrewery tying-in with the area’s wineries.

• “This is a tavern, and taverns are not permitted in the APZ,” said Phil Barbato of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition civic group.

• Richard Wines, chairman of the town landmarks preservation committee, said he hopes the ZBA allows the microbrewery, but with conditions that the property owner request that the building be made a town landmark and brought under the protection of the town’s historic preservation code; that the owners commit to growing their ingredients on Riverhead farmland; and that provisions are put in place to prevent excessive noise or inappropriate events.

Mr. Wines stressed that his letter was only representing his opinion and not that of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

• “The appeal before the ZBA to allow a brewery operation on the 3.9 acre site of the old Northville school house is of concern to the NFEC because of the precedent that would be set if the appeal is grant,” said North Fork Environmental Council board member Dan Durett.

Mr. Durett advocated holding off on a decision to allow other town agencies to review the application.

• John Ciarelli, the attorney for the applicant, said the building had been falling into disrepair before Mr. Reeve bought it and began restoring it.

“I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people that spoke tonight, but this building was neglected for many years. It was a mess,” he said. “Since John Reeve bought it, he has done a lot of work in repairing it and restoring it consistent to the original design.”

• Sal Diliberto of Jamesport, who owns a winery on less than seven acres, believes the town needs to eliminate the requirement that wineries and farmsteads have seven acres.

The ZBA took no action and adjourned the hearing to June 14.

The application is three-pronged:

The applicants are asking that a microbrewery be considered agricultural production, which would make it a permitted use in the Agricultural Protection Zone (APZ), where it is located. Barring that, they are asking for a pre-existing woodworking and storage use be changed to microbrewery, another pre-existing use, and barring that, that are asking to be granted a use variance to allow a use not permitted by zoning.

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Many others spoke at the event as well. Pick up the May 30 News-Review for a full story.

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