The Brookhaven Town Planning Board delayed voting on a proposal to convert a barn at Waterdrinker Family Farm & Garden in Manorville into the Town of Brookhaven’s first farm brewery after residents voiced concerns about traffic congestion, parking and noise.
After hearing from the 11 people on whether to move forward with the proposal at a public hearing Monday, the board closed the hearing but voted to allow the public to submit comments for 10 days. It was placed on the board’s decision calendar for June 3.
Planning board member Patricia Kelly visited the Waterdrinker farm on Saturday and said parking “was a free-for-for-all.” She expressed concern about how people would be protected if the location was even busier. She noted that that farm is located almost directly behind the farm stand.
“Cars were going everywhere,” Kelly said. “It’s concerning. There’s going to be a tasting room, and there’s going to be alcohol being served. And how are you going to protect these people? Two businesses. It’s a great thing. It’s just concerning because I saw all these cars all over the place.”
A number of residents also expressed concerns about parking, potential noise and traffic, and noted it would be near a church and a school.
“Wading River Road that they’re on now is a nightmare,” said one woman. “I can’t pull out now.” She said she likes what the farm stand has done, but “to put a brewery on top of it, I think is too much.”
She said she was also concerned that other local farmers would seek to compete, making the area even busier.
Kirk Weiss, managing member of Out East Brewery, the current name of the proposed farm brewery, said the proposal would offer more formalized parking than what’s there now. He added that there’s a “substantial” amount of space not currently being used but that would be opened up.
Additionally, he said the two driveways closest to the traffic light at Wading River and South Street would be closed off so people won’t be pulling out so close to the light. “It’s less confusing,” Weiss said.
Based on additional feedback from the building department, the 4,100-square-foot building would be made up of a 1,600-square-foot brewery, a 1,230-square-foot tasting room and an additional 300 square feet of retail/sales space.
“I’m actually very, very excited about this,” said Colin Gough, who lives two minutes away. “There is an inherent fear and knee-jerk reaction and panic whenever an establishment like that goes in. Craft breweries are not bar scenes.”
He noted that the farm has done “a significant job beautifying the area. I think it is actually safer now” and said he wanted to reassure the board that the culture behind craft breweries is family oriented.
His comments were echoed by Thomas Sposato, who said he’s known the Weiss family for about 45 years and knows it to be hard-working and dedicated to the community. He said the family wants to keep the farm a farm, but that’s it’s hard to do by only selling corn and such.
“This is a hard-working family that just wants to get another business started. I don’t want people to be afraid that this is going to create a traffic nightmare or a bunch of drunks driving around, because that’s exactly not what this is about.”
Lorraine Danowski, whose father built the house that’s next to the proposed farm brewery in 1958, said she was concerned about traffic and parking.
“I want to know if this is going to impact my family’s quality of life.”
Bill Zalakar, vice president of the Long Island Farm Bureau, expressed his support of the farm brewery.
“We’re looking at the fifth generation of the Weiss family here before you guys trying to continue with agriculture on Long Island,” he said to the board. “It’s been a hard endeavor for our industry and our industry has been changing drastically.
“The one important thing to know is the strong commitment this family has shown to the ag industry, as well as the local community.”
Board member Karen Dunne said creating a covenant restricting buses and larger limos would mitigate residents’ concerns about congestion. “The parking will be very tight,” she said.
“And that’s not the type of business we’re trying to build,” Weiss said, who suggested limiting the months in which party buses to could arrive to slower winter months.