Residents turned out again to raise objection to the bottling facility and tasting room proposed for the Grapes and Greens site on Sound Avenue. Grapes and Greens owner John King and his attorney also showed up for what they expected to be the continuation of a public hearing on the Riverhead Ciderhouse site plan application, which was held open by the planning board at its April 1 meeting.

Though Riverhead Ciderhouse was one of three “held open” public hearings listed on the planning board’s agenda yesterday afternoon, the board did not formally open any of them for comment, which confused the residents — and even Councilwoman Jodi Giglio — who showed up to speak. The planning board’s custom is to keep “held open” public meetings on its subsequent meeting agendas. People in attendance can choose to speak on any of them, whether or not the board takes them up for discussion.

Residents opposed to the ciderhouse plan spoke at length and were their comments would be incorporated into the minutes of the Riverhead Ciderhouse hearing and considered by the board in its deliberations on the site plan.

Neighbors are worried about traffic impacts and noise from the new use, particularly the potential for the planned hard cider tasting room to draw crowds. They say they are also worried about the site being used to stage festivals such as the Pore the Core Hard Cider Festival, which is produced by Riverhead Ciderhouse partner Andy Calimano of Starfish Junction Productions, an events promotion company. Starfish Junction has in the past held the event in Cutchogue. This year, the Pore the Core website says the L.I. cider festival, which is scheduled for Oct. 3, will be held on the North Fork, but it does not give a precise location.

That raised the eyebrows of some residents, who are wondering if the Grapes and Greens location will be hosting the hard cider festival this year.

King denies that the site will be used to stage any festivals. He told RiverheadLOCAL in an interview that Calimano is merely an investor in the operation. Both men’s businesses are based in Bay Shore.

“We’re not going to have festivals there,” King told the planning board yesterday.

Riverhead Ciderhouse LLC is also seeking tax breaks from the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency — sales tax exemptions on equipment it will purchase and real property tax abatements on the portion of the existing building that will be used for the bottling facility and tasting room. At an April 6 public hearing before the IDA board, King said “most of our events will be held indoors.”

King said yesterday there is a lot of false information being spread about his plans, including an allegation that he owns apple orchards upstate and will bring apple juice to the facility in tanker trucks. The only thing he owns upstate, he said, is a vacation home he bought with his wife many years ago.

“I don’t know where this is all coming from,” he said.

The statement on his application that the facility will be a tourist destination meant there will be a map on site highlighting area attractions, he said.

Neighbors are over-reacting, King said.

Sound Avenue resident Mark Terry read an eight-page letter aloud to the planning board yesterday. He demanded full review of the proposal’s environmental impacts.

Board members had no comment or questions yesterday and did not take any action on the site plan application.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.