Sound Avenue hard cider tasting room OK’d by Planning Board


Grapes and Greens

The Riverhead Planning Board voted unanimously Thursday to give final site plan approval to Grapes & Greens’ proposal to build a hard cider tasting room and retail store, with storage and processing of apples, at the former Blackman supply building at the corner of Sound Avenue and Osborn Avenue in Baiting Hollow.

The project, which is owned by John King of J. Kings Food Service Professionals of Holtsville and will do business as Riverhead Cider House, also may be on the verge of getting Riverhead Industrial Development Agency tax incentives at the IDA’s next meeting on May 2, just over a year after the IDA held a public hearing on the request.

Thursday’s Planning Board’s approval — which follows a preliminary approval in December — contains a number of conditions, including a prohibition on special events such as “weddings, festivals or fairs” being held on the property. The approval resolution also prohibits having a full service restaurant or catering facility on the property and bans the playing of music outside the building.

It permits about 30,000-square-feet to be used within the 108,178-square-foot building.

Mr. King had no objections to any of the conditions.

“I will do whatever the site plan says,” he stated after the meeting, indicating that he wants to get the cider project running “as fast as possible.”

The project had run into some opposition at a public hearing last year from neighboring residents who feared it would create a “nightclub-like” atmosphere, and would add to traffic problems on that section of road.

• GUEST COLUMN: OK’ing Cider House is short-term planning

Mr. King last November had also had filed a lawsuit against the town, the Planning Board, the individual members of those boards, the town attorney and the former deputy town attorney.

It claimed the town engaged in a “19-month campaign to delay J. Kings’ site plan application.”

Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said this week that Mr. King had agreed to withdraw three of the claims in the lawsuit after the Planning Board granted preliminary site plan approval to the cider proposals in December, but did not agree to drop portions of the lawsuit seeking monetary damages from the town.

It was unclear if the lawsuit will be withdrawn now that the final site plan approval has been granted.

The IDA’s standard exemptions, should the company receive them, would include county mortgage tax abatements, sales tax abatements on building materials used in the construction of the project, and property tax exemptions on the value of the improvements that start at 50 percent exemption, and gradually decreases over a 10 year period until the project is ultimately paying full tax.

Attorney Richard Ehlers, who is attorney for both the IDA and the Planning Board, said a draft resolution to approve the IDA benefits for Riverhead Cider House was ready at Monday’s meeting of the IDA, but IDA members decided to hold off the vote because no one from the applicant was present.