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Town officials will revisit a proposal to allow agri-tourism resorts on land north of Sound Avenue, Supervisor Tim Hubbard said. The public hearing on the code scheduled for next week’s board meeting has been canceled.

“After review with various representatives from the farming community, staff members, and after consultation with my fellow board members, we have unanimously agreed to cancel and reschedule the agritourism public hearing scheduled for Feb. 21 at 6:05,” Hubbard said at the outset of Thursday’s work session.  

“It is our intention to revisit the subject of agri-tourism at a future work session,” Hubbard said. “We feel the code changes regarding agri-tourism previously published need changes beyond those which can be made without republishing.”

Hubbard said the town’s Agricultural Advisory Committee and the Long Island Farm Bureau raised concerns to him and other board members earlier this week over the code’s limits on what can be done on preserved agricultural land. 

“I think if you look at the part of that code that deals with what the farmers can and can’t do, it appears to be a little too restrictive on the farmers’ end —  against the farmers, if you will,” Hubbard said. “So we want to open it up a little bit more, so the farmers will have more leeway to do more things farming-like,” he said.

Under the current proposal, 70% of land must be preserved for agricultural production, while the other 30% can be developed into a resort hotel rooms, restaurants, recreational amenities like spas and conference rooms.  

The proposal requires that land preserved for agricultural production use the agricultural soils for crop production, horticultural specialties or livestock. The code, as currently drafted, would allow land preserved for agricultural production to also be used for: farm tours; you-pick harvest activities; crop mazes for hayrides; hiking and horseback riding and other passive recreational uses. Larger events on the preserved land would be limited to six per year and require special event permits. The code would not allow the preserved land to be used for catered events.

Deputy Town Attorney Annemarie Prudenti said during the Jan. 11 work session that the town had received input from the Agricultural Advisory Committee and the public on the law, and made modifications to the draft introduced in a prior work session. One of the committee’s recommendations, she said, was expanding the definition of agri-tourism to “make it more broad and sweeping, and not simply related to preservation, but include everything, from farming practices, structures, etc.”

During that discussion, Council Member Ken Rothwell warned that granting all of the Agricultural Advisory Committee’s requests risks the town “going too far into the development side of things and further away from the preservation side of things.”

Hubbard and other board members said after the discussion that they supported the zoning code amendment and voted unanimously on Jan. 17 to set the public hearing. 

Last month, RiverheadLOCAL reported on emails documenting how the attorney and planning consultants for developer Alfred Weissman Real Estate worked with town officials behind the scenes on the text of the proposed agri-tourism code. Weissman, a firm in Westchester County, had already featured the proposed North Fork Resort, a “luxury resort and spa” on the Long Island Sound, in the “new development” section of its website. 

Hubbard, who said he did not know of the developer’s involvement, defended the collaboration between town staff and prospective developers in the days after the report, stating that developers often have a hand in crafting new zoning codes.

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