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Riverhead Ciderhouse seeking temporary CO to open for Winterfest

A proposed hard cider tasting room and retail store at Grapes & Greens in Baiting Hollow, dubbed Riverhead Ciderhouse, is seeking a three-month temporary certificate of occupancy so it can open in time for Long Island Winterfest, an annual event that brings live music to local vineyard tasting rooms, theaters, breweries, hotels and other venues on the East End.

But the request will have to wait, because the Riverhead Town Planning Board was one member short last Thursday and the vote to allow the temporary CO ended in a tie.

Riverhead Ciderhouse received Planning Board approval April 16 to use a portion of Grapes & Greens’ 108,000-square-foot processing facility — located in the former Blackman Plumbing building on Sound and Osborn avenues — for tasting and retail sales of hard cider.

That approval, however, came with a number of conditions that had to be met before even a temporary CO could be issued, according to town planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree. Those included planting a certain number of apple orchard trees, other landscaping and installation of operational irrigation, he said.

Grapes & Greens founder John King, who also owns Riverhead Ciderhouse, said in a recent letter to the board that he’d attempted to clear land for the orchard last summer but was told by the town he couldn’t do so until a building permit was issued. He said “Mother Nature” was also a challenge and requested the three-month temporary CO to allow the ciderhouse to open and operate until Memorial Day.

“Obviously, all planning, inspections and fire safety systems will be in compliance before opening,” Mr. King said in the letter. “We hope to be a part of the Winterfest season opening Feb. 28, 2017.”

Winterfest’s schedule shows four events scheduled at Riverhead Ciderhouse, the first on March 4.

But with member George Nunnaro absent last Thursday, the board’s vote on the 90-day CO ended in a 2-2 tie. Chairman Stan Carey and vice chairman Ed Densieski were in favor and Joe Baier and Richard O’Dea were opposed.

Mr. Murphree said the tie is neither a denial nor an approval and that the board will have to revisit the issue at its next meeting on March 2.

Phil Barbato, president of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, was the only member of the public to speak. He recommended rejection of the temporary CO, saying that with parking and construction going on at the same time, with a blind curve in both directions, “somebody is going to get killed.”

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