Scores of Huntington residents attended the town’s September 17 board meeting to complain about Del Vino Vineyards, a Northport-based vineyard and winery. Homeowners say customers are parking on neighborhood streets, causing traffic congestion and safety concerns in the surrounding area after the vineyard parking lot fills up.
Earlier last month, the town board proposed changes to traffic code and creating “no parking” zones in the vicinity, but the vineyard’s attorney is challenging the idea.
Anthony Guardino, a Hauppauge-based attorney and representative for the vineyard’s owner Frederick Giachetti, said at the meeting that the proposed regulations violate New York State agriculture and markets laws.
“[The area] It has been designated as an agriculture district from the state,” he said. “…And the law prohibits governments from enacting laws that restrict or affect operations, unless there is a public health or safety concern.”
The town is proposing no parking zones on Norwood Road, Russell Court and Starlight Drive. The zones would go into effect from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays to Fridays and from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in all zones except for Sound Court, which would be permanently a no-parking spot.
The attorney called the restrictions unreasonable and said it would be only fair to adopt a resolution that bans all parking on those streets regardless of the time. He also pointed out how soccer games on the weekends and school events contribute to the traffic congestion.
“We are operating within the confines of law we didn’t create it, it already exists,” Guardino said. “If the board wants to be fair, treat everyone the same.”
Mark Cuthbertson (D), Huntington councilman, took exception to Guardino’s remarks.
“It is a real conundrum for us, because they have used an exemption…it put us in a really difficult situation because some of the normal land use tools that we could use were not available to us,” he said. “And now we have a situation where basically the vineyard’s parking lot is the surrounding neighborhood.”
Cutherbertson said the spillover effect from parking in the neighborhood has been tremendous.
“Soccer teams don’t present the quality of life issues that the patrons of Del Vino pose.” he said.
After the meeting, in a separate email interview Nicholas Ciappetta, town attorney, said that Huntington does in fact have jurisdiction over parking in the residential area.
“While the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law preempts Town Zoning Code, the Town retains its authority over the regulation of traffic and parking on Town roads and protecting quality of life in our communities,” he said.
Matthew Karpoich, a homeowner on Starlit Drive, said he doesn’t think the proposed regulations will solve the parking issue and only push the burden back further to other neighboring streets.
“The core issue is that vineyard is not providing ample parking,” he said. “This is not a case of going from 50 percent capacity to 100 percent. When the vineyard is not open there are zero cars on our block and little traffic. We go from zero to 100 percent capacity, bumper to bumper parking on our streets, when it is open.”
The Northport resident mentioned he bought his home so that his kids could ride their bikes and enjoy the quiet neighborhood. But said the presence of the vineyard has ruined that.
“The area has become the private parking lot for Del Vino,” Karpoich said.
Neighborhood residents voiced a range of safety and public health concerns related to the parking issue.
Those concerns included the possibility of drunken drivers, passed out patrons on lawns and public urinating. The business, residents said, has also resulted in steady traffic of Uber and Lyft vehicles on the local streets.
Roy Kennis, who bought his house nearly thirty years ago, said the quiet neighborhood he once knew is a thing of the past.
“Whenever Del Vino has an event the streets become a grand central station of cars, SUVs and pick-up trucks hustling to a parking spot on both sides of the street,” he said. “…They are unknown commodities only coming here for a few drinks.”
Lynn Ruder said the excessive parking have made many roads a one-way street.
“This a recipe for disaster, it is only a matter of time before there is a car accident or worse,” she said. “I urge you [the town board] to install no parking signs as soon as possible, as this is the one thing you have jurisdiction over.”
The vineyard has been a thorn in the side of many residents since site plans were first introduced in 2015. Some pointed out that similar businesses, like Harmony Vineyard in Head of the Harbor, have regulated that street parking is not permitted anywhere and it can only serve the number of customers that its parking lot can accommodate.
The next town board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.
Article was updated Sept. 26 to include information from the Huntington town attorney.