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Fresh & Co.’s proposed use of preserved Orient farmland draws concerns and objections from residents

Fresh & Co. Farm, Orient. Courtesy photo: Fresh & Co.

Orient residents came out in force at a Southold Town Planning Board public hearing Monday night to voice their concerns about plans for farmland at the corner of Narrow River Road and Main Road in Orient.

The owner of the property, Steve Tenedios of Fresh & Co., a New York-based restaurant chain, purchased the 34.5 acre farm in March for $1.4 million and has submitted plans for construction of an 8,664-square-foot barn to house goats, sheep and chickens and to store farm equipment, feed and supplies.

Development rights for 29.5 acres of the property, which includes freshwater and tidal wetlands, were sold to Southold Town in 2002; the remaining five acres have development rights intact in the R-200 zoning district. The property is listed on the town’s Community Preservation Project Plan as property that should be preserved due to its agricultural and scenic value as well as its proximity to wetlands.

New York State Wetlands Inventory map showing that roughly 2 acres of the property are wetlands.

According to Southold Town’s Agricultural Land Preservation code, Tenedios is within his rights to build on the land, but restrictions apply. The code states that the land may be used for the production of crops, livestock and livestock products, but not for processing of those products or for retail merchandising, for example.

Tenedios’ application for a building permit was given a notice of disapproval in June since site plan approval from the Southold Town planning board and land preservation office are required to proceed.

In a statement to the board, Orient Association president Bob Hanlon expressed the major concerns of residents: the property’s proximity to protected wetlands, the effects of livestock waste on the aquifer and the preservation of scenic vistas. Additionally, he said, there were questions about Fresh & Co.’s intention as stated on their website to hold events at the farm including tours, dinners, cooking classes, culinary educational programs and a local food and wine festival.

In his statement, Hanlon questioned the accuracy of information submitted by Tenedios to Southold Town on the site plan application, building permit and other forms.

“On the LWRP [Local Waterfront Revitalization Program] consistency assessment form, the applicant has checked ‘Not Applicable’ to every question, even though many of the factors that must be addressed clearly are applicable,” Hanlon said.

Pointing out that the Orient Association was not taking a position for or against the project, Hanlon said that the OA is “committed to ensuring that the community has full and accurate information about issues that affect Orient. And we urge our elected and appointed officials to make decisions based on a full record.”

Hanlon also voiced an objection to the project’s designation as a Type II action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR), which means coordinated review and the preparation of an environmental impact study are not required. 

According to the DEC, “clearing a field to plant crops; construction, maintenance and repair of farm buildings and structures; building of dikes, ditching, or installing drainage piping; or erecting a farm stand would not require SEQR review.”

Chairman Donald Wilcenski said that the planning board had received many letters expressing concern about the project, adding that the board had already determined that additional information was needed to address questions about animal wastes, wastewater, fresh water, wetlands and scenic preservation. The public hearing was adjourned to allow for the gathering of that information and will resume at a later date.

As of today there were over 1,000 signatures on a change.org petition opposing construction of the livestock barn, stating that “it would directly contradict the deeded sale of development rights to the town of Southold in that it would ‘detract from, or adversely affect the open space and scenic value that is protected by this development rights purchase and easement.’”

 

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Katharine Schroeder
Katharine is a writer and photographer who has lived on the North Fork for nearly 40 years, except for three-plus years in Hong Kong a decade ago, working for the actor Jackie Chan. She lives in Cutchogue. Email Katharine