Featured Story

Residents urge Planning Board to reject Riverhead Ciderhouse application

Local residents urged the Riverhead Town Planning Board to reject Riverhead Ciderhouse’s application to amend its site plan Thursday night and said the business has consistently built extensions and alterations without town approval and has violated covenants it agreed to.

Residents also criticized the town’s lack of enforcement and said the ciderhouse already built some of the additions listed in the application.

“It’s not just the ciderhouse,” former Riverhead Councilman George Bartunek said. “A lot of other organizations are looking at this and saying, ‘If he can get away with this, why not me?”

Riverhead Ciderhouse, located in the John King’s Grapes and Greens building on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow, is seeking to change the size of a “Grab & Go Snack Bar” within the building, install two pizza ovens, and build a 3,186-square foot outdoor patio and brick wall.

Additional plans include installing two wall-mounted outdoor speakers to play recorded music, adding 56 more parking spaces, and changing the landscaping for the 7.1 acre property.

The project had previously received Planning Board approval on April 7, 2016, and that approval prohibited outdoor music, a full-service restaurant or catering hall and weddings, festivals or fairs on the property.

Mike Foley of Reeves Park said at the meeting that at least four covenants that Riverhead Ciderhouse agreed to have been broken.

Residents also said the business currently plays outdoor music and already constructed the patio, brick wall, and additional parking without town approvals.

“What I would like to understand is, where is your indignation?” South Jamesport resident Larry Simms asked town planners, adding the owner already built many of the structures listed in his application.

Planning Board chairman Stan Carey said board is not responsible for enforcement.

Bryan Lewis, an attorney for Riverhead Ciderhouse, said the outdoor speakers are “only about the size of a piece of paper” and the sound can only be heard at the property.

Dan Maurer of nearby Baywood Drive said he can hear the music from his house.


Mr. Lewis said the restriction was originally for live music outdoors, not all music.

“We want to pipe the music outside so that when the weather is nice, people will want to sit outside,” he said.

Mr. Lewis said the town building department told him the patio and the outdoor speakers did not need Planning Board approval.

The ciderhouse currently does have live indoor music, which was not restricted in the approved site plan.

The Grapes and Greens building was originally approved as an agricultural warehouse and processing facility.

The issue of whether there’s a “full service restaurant” on the site also has been disputed.

Town chief building inspector Brad Hammond told the Planning Board in July that the county health department considers the site to be a restaurant.

But Mr. King said all the food served there is prepared at his food preparation facility in Bay Shore and brought his Baiting Hollow site, where it is microwaved.

Mr. Bartunek said he hadn’t paid much attention to the ciderhouse until he saw a photograph of the interior in the News-Review.

“I was shocked,” he said. “I asked myself how it is possible that this happened. It’s not something you expect to exist on Sound Avenue, which was designated a state historic corridor in 1974.”

Mr. Bartunek said he expected it to be an agricultural operation and instead it has 24 taps and allows people to by beer, wine and cider.

Baiting Hollow Commons owner Fred Terry said: “I am incredulous about this whole process. There is literally no limit, in my mind, as to what uses you can do under the agricultural protection zone. It is up to this board to put a stop to some of this.”

The Planning Board closed the public hearing Thursday. The earliest the board could vote on the application would be at the Sept. 21 meeting.

[email protected]