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Planning Board poised to approve site plan for Riverhead Ciderhouse

The Riverhead Town Planning Board appears set to approve Riverhead Ciderhouse’s amended site plan application, with one exception: It will not permit outdoor music.

The Planning Board may vote on the issue at its Nov. 2 meeting, according to board chairman Stan Carey.

At a public hearing last month, several residents urged the Planning Board to reject the ciderhouse’s application, saying its owners have consistently made changes to the business without town approvals — including playing outdoor music — and have violated several covenants to which they had previously agreed.

They also criticized the town for not enforcing its own rules and regulations.

Owner John King, whose Grapes & Greens building on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow houses the Ciderhouse, had previously received town site plan approval, but is now seeking other approvals for a number of changes, such as the creation of a 3,186-square-foot outdoor patio and brick wall, as well as installing two wall-mounted outdoor speakers to play recorded music.

Speakers at last month’s public hearing said all those changes have already been implemented, and Mr. King is just seeking to legalize them now.

Mr. Carey said most of the proposed changes — such as new landscaping and changing the size of the parking spaces — are minor in nature and have board support.

But outdoor music doesn’t have support from the board majority, he said. He added that no other business on Sound Avenue can legally play outdoor music either.

After the earlier hearing, Mr. Carey said he’d recently asked the planning staff to determine if any businesses along the state-designated Sound Avenue Historic Corridor have permission to play outdoor music — and it turns out, none does, although many of them do so anyway.

“For me, it’s very difficult to get past that point,” Mr. Carey said, adding that he had thought the others had approval too.

“Because we asked permission, we’re told we can’t put this outside?” Mr. King said.

“You pointed out [at the prior hearing] that everybody else is doing it, and we researched it, and everybody else is doing it,” Mr. Carey told Mr. King.

Mr. Carey said he received criticism from the public last month when he said that enforcement is not the Planning Board’s responsibility.

He said the board can vote on the amended resolution, with the outdoor music removed, or it can vote on the resolution as is — including outdoor music — but so far, the latter doesn’t have enough votes to pass.

Bryan Lewis, the attorney for Mr. King, said the speakers are the size of a pice of loose-leaf paper and the music won’t be very loud. He said it was always planned that the Ciderhouse would have an outdoor area for people to congregate. He said he thought the prohibition was on live music, not all music.

Mr. King also submitted a noise study, as the board had requested, that measured sound at 11 different locations on the 7.1-acre property, on three different days and times in September.

The study took readings, one with traffic noise and one without. The cover letter on the study said the measurements without traffic fall below the town level requirement of 82 dba (decibels).

But Vinnie Gaudiello, architect for the Planning Board, said the noise limit isn’t 82 dba. He said that for commercial properties next to residences, the limit is 65 dba from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and 60 dba from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The highest reading at the ciderhouse property for the tests without traffic was 58.6 dba.

For the results with traffic, the lowest readings was 67.4 dba, which was the only reading under 70 dba.

To put it in perspective, Mr. Gaudiello said two people having a conversation five feet apart would be about 50 to 60 dba.

“It’s great fit for Sound Avenue,” Mr. Carey said of the ciderhouse. “I think it’s a first-class operation, and the property is a tremendous improvement.”

“I think it’s a great business,” Planning Board member Ed Densieski concurred. “Riverhead is now getting some positive feedback. Sound Avenue, wineries, apples, agritourism … they are starting to give Riverhead a positive image.”

Mr. Densieski said he will vote to prohibit outdoor music, but he doesn’t think the small speakers proposed are a problem.

Board members Richard O’Dea and George Nunnaro said they also oppose the outside music.

“I think enforcement is something that needs an outcry from the public,” said Mike Foley of Reeves Park, one of the residents who opposed the project at the September hearing. He said he wasn’t aware that other Sound Avenue businesses did not have town approval for outdoor music.

“My objection is not just to the music speakers, my objection is to the fact that this business is moving its business outside,” Mr. Foley said.

He said he doesn’t want Mr. King “to sound like a martyr here” because he violated four covenants before seeking permission on the outdoor music.

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