Riverhead Town officials are considering taking legal action against the owners of the Glass Greenhouse for illegally operating its newly built Farm Market, a 5,000-square foot, two-story building that features a full kitchen, office space, high ceilings with exposed beams, and an elevator.
A resolution discussed at Thursday’s town board work session, expected to be voted on next Tuesday, states that members have determined the property — located at 1350 Main Road in Jamesport — is in violation of various sections of the town and state code.
The Farm Market, which opened in October and held a grand opening two weeks ago, is currently operating with out a valid certificate of occupancy and outside of the town’s regulations for an agriculture operation, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.
“As much as some people want to believe it meets the town’s zoning, it doesn’t,” Mr. Walter said. “It doesn’t have site plan approval now and I don’t suspect it will get it, since it is not up to code.”
The Glass Greenhouse, which is owned and operated by Walter and Edith Gabrielsen, previously only sold plants and flowers. Three years ago they decided to expand to include a farmers market to sell a variety of fresh and prepackaged foods, manager Amanda Putnam told the Riverhead News-Review in October.
However, much of the products are shipped in from Vermont, Massachusetts and upstate New York, Ms. Putnam said. Moreover, less than 40 percent of the products are made using ingredients grown on site — a direct violation of town code, Mr. Walter said.
The decision to seek legal action against the Gabrielsens wasn’t done with haste, the supervisor said. Walter Gabrielsen’s brother, Councilman George Gabrielsen, said he has recused himself from the matter.
While the site plan has yet to be approved by the town or planning boards, the market was granted a temporary two-month-long certificate of occupancy on Oct. 4, Mr. Walter said.
Without site plan approval from the town, the market opened its doors after receiving a food-processing license from the state Agriculture & Markets Committee on Oct. 11.
Since, Mr. Walter said he has been attempting to contact both the Agriculture & Markets Committee and Farm Bureau president Joe Gergela to determine the town’s next course of action.
When the town’s temporary certificate of occupancy expired on Dec. 4, Mr. Walter said the town still didn’t have a clear plan on how to address the violations.
“It is really not agricultural production,” Councilman James Wooten said in a phone interview Thursday. “When you walk in there, you open your eyes and it’s like a King Kullen. That doesn’t quite make sense to me.”
This is not the first time the town has taken legal action against a business believed to be operating outside town code.
Similarly, in 2010, Riverhead Town took owners of the former A Taste of Country in Northville to court, claiming that its certificate of occupancy is for a farm stand, and that serving hot and cold food — which the business was doing at the time — was not permitted on the site.
Following a two-year court battle, a state Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of the town, according to an October 2012 Riverhead News-Review article.
To bring their operation into compliance, the owners are hoping to expand their business for a second time within the next six months, Mr. Wooten said Thursday. Discussions with the owners revealed the plan to create about 2,800 additional square feet in order to accommodate and sell more products being processed on site, Mr. Wooten said.
“For the most part we want to work with them,” Mr. Wooten said. “We want to encourage agritourism, but it has to comply with our town code.”
Walter Gabrielsen declined to comment on the resolution.
“I can’t get involved with that,” he said Thursday.
The Town Board is expected to decide if it will take legal action during its next regular session on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.