2013-07-25 / News

Neighbors oppose vineyards

Owners of Beavertail winery apply for commercial license
By Margo Sullivan

Jamestown Vineyards at 260 Beavertail Road is seeking a farmer winery license from the state. Abutting neighbors are worried that the commercial business will bring unwanted visitors. 
Photo by tim riel Jamestown Vineyards at 260 Beavertail Road is seeking a farmer winery license from the state. Abutting neighbors are worried that the commercial business will bring unwanted visitors. Photo by tim riel Beavertail Road neighbors of Jamestown Vineyards plan to oppose the company’s application for a farmer winery license. The Town Council learned that the neighborhood group will attend the Aug. 2 hearing at the state Department of Business Regulation.

Don Wineberg, a resident who lives at 354 Beavertail Road, spoke before the council during the open forum at the July 15 council meeting. Wineberg said the group has no objection to the vineyards as it exists presently, but does have concerns about sweeping changes that that occur on the property if a license is granted.

Jamestown Vineyards, also known as PBH Vineyards, is owned by the Procaccianti Group of Cranston. The company owns other hotel and hospitality properties, including the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Providence. James Procaccianti also owns a private home in Shoreby Hill.

The vineyard, which is at 260 Beavertail Road, has been at the center of controversy before. In 2006, the state Coastal Resources Management Council issued a cease-and-desist order against PBH for clear-cutting in the coastal buffer zone. At the time, Wineberg, whose property abuts the vineyard, brought the matter to the local conservation commission’s attention. Ultimately, the company paid a fine for committing those violations.

Then in 2009, the Press reported that Jamestown Vineyards was in a dispute with the CRMC over wetlands violations, specifically for creating a man-made pond on the property by rebuilding a stone wall and damming up a stream. An agreement was struck in December 2011. PBH was supposed to restore the property by June 1, 2012.

Maureen Coleman, chairwoman of the Conservation Commission, could not be reached for comment about the status of the CRMC restoration.

Ralph Izzi, spokesman for the Procaccianti Group, said those issues have all been resolved.

With the winery license, Wineberg said, the vineyard could open a tasting room on the property or start holding bus tours and weddings, which would “really change the nature of a place that has no retail operation today.”

Wineberg and other residents also sent a letter to councilors to sum up the issues. The letter was signed by Kitty Wineberg, Sarah and Craig Richardson, Joan and Leon Goldstein, and William and Karen Skinner.

“We’re concerned about the application for a winery license,” Wineberg told the councilors. If granted, he said, the state license would effectively give the vineyard owners the right to conduct large wholesale and retail operations, including bus tours, wed- dings, storage, packaging and shipping of wine on the property, and all on a lot with no septic.

Wineberg asked the town to send a representative to the Aug. 2 hearing and protect “its rights to regulate this potentially disruptive business in one of the town’s most treasured areas.”

“We’re not asking for anything the town has not applied in the past,” he said.

According to Wineberg, the residents were not asking the councilors to take a position for or against the application.

But if the state ultimately grants the winery license, he said, there should be a stipulation saying that Jamestown Vineyards must comply with all the local ordinances.

Past experience indicates that Jamestown Vineyards has a “history” of not following town regulations, according to Wineberg.

“The owners of this property have on multiple occasions taken the position that a particular state license preempts the town of Jamestown and other departments of state government from applying their own laws and rules,” the letter from the opposition read.

Council President Kristine Trocki said she wanted to defer any comment until Town Administrator Bruce Keiser could assess the situation.

“We don’t have any real facts on what the applicants are intending to do,” she said. “My gut is, turn it over to Bruce.”

She said Keiser could speak about the situation with the residents and property owners, and ultimately provide the council with the information they could use to “make some thoughtful and informed decisions.”

“This is an important issue, clearly,” Councilor Eugene Mihaly said.

Councilor Mary Meagher agreed. “There are a few concerns about Beavertail these days,” she said “One doesn’t want to see a commercial enterprise.”

However, she added, “It’s unclear that’s the intent.”

“We need to get our facts and hear from our solicitor,” she said.

Keiser offered to meet privately with Wineberg and the owners of Jamestown Vineyards to “get a clearer sense” about the situation.

“We don’t know what the property owner’s really seeking here, so we don’t know the impact,” he said.

Asked for a comment, Izzi said, “Jamestown Vineyards is one of the largest privately owned parcels within this area of the island. We appreciate the ecological and environmental sensitivities and fully embrace the responsibility that accompanies our stewardship. Appropriate authorities are aware of the activities on the property, all of which are properly permitted.”

He continued, “It’s unfortunate that speculation by some who are less informed has led to misinformation and misconceptions. We respect the wonderful lifestyle that many generations have enjoyed.”

Izzi also said the vineyard is following the law.

“Jamestown Vineyards will continue to operate within all the applicable federal, state and town regulations,” he said. “Additionally, through conservation plans we will continue our effort to enhance the land by fostering new wildlife habitats for local species like the recently installed osprey nest and duck boxes.”

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