A Northport property is one step closer to becoming Huntington Town’s very first winery.
The Huntington Town Planning Board granted the owner of a Norwood Avenue parcel conditional site plan approval on June 17 to grow grapes on the approximately 10-acre property. The board also added a condition requiring a second site plan approval if the owners want to build a winery.
Landowner Frederick Giachetti already has approval to subdivide the residentially-zoned property into seven homes, but decided to take the property down a different direction, his attorney Anthony Guardino told the board at last week’s meeting. Plans for a winery still have to be finalized, but the applicant said he wants to go forward with planting eight acres of sterile corn crop to nourish the soil for the planting of vines later on.
Planning Board Chairman Paul Mandelik prompted Guardino to talk about the vineyard plans. Guardino said Steve Mudd, a North Fork viticulturist, who is credited with pioneering Long Island’s wine industry, would be a partner in the business. Guardino also tossed around some ideas for the winery.
The applicant said he envisions a small tasting room on the property, along with wine-making on premises that would occur in a building that would need to be built. Patrons would be able to come in, taste the wine and be able to purchase it, and the business would also sell local honey, and perhaps some cheeses, jams and jelly. He likened it to Whisper Vineyards on Edgewood Avenue in St. James and said the operation would be “very, very small.”
“I don’t want people to think there’s a catering facility,” he said. “That is not something that is being contemplated now or in the future.”
The scale of the operation was a concern some residents brought up in comments to the board, as well as concerns about the operation’s proximity to Norwood Avenue Elementary School. One woman said she wanted to know whether there was potential soil contamination on the land. Out of the approximately dozen individuals who spoke, many were in favor of the proposal.
“This is a unique opportunity in my mind to preserve open space,” Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said, noting that there is not much more land left in Huntington Town. He urged the board to move quickly in approving it.
One Northport resident expressed concern about being able to manage the popularity of such a business.
Todd Gardella said he works across from White Post Farms in Melville and has witnessed overflow parking in the area.
“My concern is that this might become something that we cannot foresee at this point in time,” Gardella said.
Alexander Lotz, 20, of Northport, said he’s loved agriculture his whole life and is heartened to see the winery proposal, because it shows younger generations that farming can be done.
“To have someone like Fred present something that’s so unrepresented in our area is inspiring,” he said. “And I appreciate him doing this more than anything.”
Mudd was present at the meeting last week, and spoke to some of the residents’ concerns. He said he’s been on the property and tested the soil, and didn’t see anything concerning with regard to soil contamination. He also committed to staying on the community’s good side.
“We will be right neighborly,” he said. “We will do the right thing.”