LEXINGTON — Lexington and West Kill residents were left with a bad taste in their mouths when they heard about a proposal by a resident to build a brewing facility in town.
The residents brought their concerns about the potential of increased traffic and disruption to the quality of life to the Lexington Planning Board during its monthly meeting Tuesday.
Greenport Beer & Ale Co. founder Ed Raven discussed his proposed design and buildout for a 9,000-square-foot single story barn and brewing facility with an area for dining and an outdoor biergarden at the planning committee’s June meeting, according to the proposal.
The location would be 106 Spruceton Road.
The barn would be built on Raven’s property and would also serve as a production facility for his beverages to be produced wholesale, Raven said. Greenport’s beverages will be available for sale at retail stores in New York City and possibly in the Hudson Valley.
It would be expensive to build a brewery in New York City, Raven said, so building in West Kill was ideal because he already owns land in town.
“There’s a lot of issues we have to address before we break ground,” Raven said. “The emphasis of this location is not to be a big retail outlet.”
Raven came into the meeting with a proposal to start discussions about the project. Planning board member Jennifer Caewin said she had received emails and calls of concern about the project that were not based on facts.
“Because of the meeting minutes and how the rumor mill works in Lexington, people were curious about what was happening,” Caewin said Wednesday. “We wanted to share some information to satisfy people’s curiosity.”
Caewin said she understood residents’ concerns about protecting the natural assets of the area, but also advocated for businesses to come in and attract younger visitors.
“We don’t want to become a dead town full of only very old people with no one to mow the lawn,” Caewin said. “You want to grow but you want to protect hunting, fishing, all the trails, the beauty.”
This comment offended Lori Decker-McKusick, of West Kill, who made her frustration known to the audience as some chuckled at Caewin’s observation. After some time, Planning Board Chairman Robert Hermance addressed the situation.
“If you got comments or anything you’re going to have to give them to us in writing because it’s getting a little bit out of hand,” Hermance said.
“It sounded very biased to me,” Decker-McKusick said after the meeting. “It sounded like it wasn’t an open view of the community itself.”
Caewin clarified her statement Wednesday and said the area has to be attractive to younger visitors to keep the town going.
“You want young people to contribute to the vitality of your community — that was my point,” Caewin said Wednesday. “Having people visit our area drives the economic engine.”
Decker-McKusick is concerned about what will happen to the water once the brewery moves in and what sewer systems will have to be installed because her home is across the street from Raven’s property.
Decker-McKusick said the meeting’s atmosphere was tense but she would be attending future meetings to voice her concerns.
“I think the board made it very clear they did not want to hear our concerns,” Decker-McKusick said.
Although the meeting was not a formal public hearing, Caewin said she was happy to see a large number of people come out and share their thoughts and concerns.
“We had an unusual turnout,” Caewin said. “The key to this is open and honest communication — they have a right to know what’s going on.”
At this time the proposal is preliminary and there are many questions that need to be answered before any decision is made, Caewin said. “From my perspective it could help it could also hurt,” Caewin said. “It depends on how it’s done.”
An official public hearing would need to be held with Raven once a formal proposal is presented. If planners approve the proposal, Raven would likely be granted permission to build by the Lexington Town Board, Caewin said.
“He could present us with something half as big or twice as big,” Caewin said. “He’s got freedom and rights to do anything that he wants.”
Raven, a 30-year resident of West Kill, said he would be glad to address his fellow residents during a public hearing.
“I’d be more than happy to meet my neighbors again,” Raven said.
Caewin recommended all residents check out Raven’s website to get an idea of what his business is about. Caewin also brought Raven’s proposal to the Greene County Planning Board’s monthly meeting; none of the county planners voted against it, she said.
“His brewery site, from at least what I saw online, is pretty small,” Caewin said. “To me he seems like an open guy who wants to do the right thing.”
Raven has had members of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection inspect the area and it has green-lighted the land to have a septic and filtration system.
“We’re going to take precautions and reuse the water as much as possible,” Raven said.
The brewing facility and pub would employ about 25 people. Raven said there would be no environmental impact and noise and traffic issues would be minimal.
“I’ve never known a brewery to be noisy,” Raven said. “I don’t expect the location, West Kill, to be a high traffic area.”
Any questions residents have should be addressed to town board and the planning board takes all written comments into consideration, Hermance said.
“Everything has to be addressed to the board,” Hermance said.
A State Environmental Quality Review has to be conducted before the brewing facility is built and Raven would have to comply with the DEP and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Hermance said.
“If everything is done by the law, there’s nothing we can do in opposing it,” Hermance said. “Every town has a comprehensive plan and you try to live by that plan.”
The planning board enforces existing town laws. Planning board member Beverly Dezan said she understood where residents were coming from when they spoke. Dezan appreciated town councilmembers Michael Barcone, William Pushman and Jo Ellen Schermerhorn attending the meeting.
“I think people were reacting from their heart and their guts and I do the same,” Dezan said. “Change has to be really scary for everyone.”
Dezan understands about quality of life issues — she lives near an Airbnb rental and other party houses where people are not respectful of residents, she said.
“They don’t realize there’s other people around,” Dezan said.
Dezan supports building a town center where residents did not have to travel far to get groceries, she said.
“I would certainly support clean development than something that would harm our environment,” Dezan said. “This has been such a sleepy community for a long time.”
Planning board member Taris Charysyn, a 37-year resident of West Kill, was pleased with the turnout and wants to get more details about the project to make an informed decision.
“I could see they were worried because they didn’t have all the facts,” Charysyn said. “We haven’t given out the info yet because we had no sketches.”
The project could be an ongoing process for up to three years and Charysyn said the impact on noise and traffic from the project needs to be reviewed.
“That’s our job as planning board members — we have to 100 percent of all the facts,” Charysyn said. “I believe that this might not be the right venue for such a small little hamlet, sizewise.”
Valerie Naranjo-Olsen, of West Kill, also lives near Raven and said many people moved to the area because of the natural environment and peaceful atmosphere. Naranjo-Olsen said her concerns were addressed, as were her fellow residents.
“They [my concerns] were heard verbally and that makes me feel confident,” Naranjo-Olsen said after the meeting. “This issue raises concerns about being a good neighbor, let’s put it that way.”
Robert Irvine, of West Kill, echoed Hermance’s statement of taking concerns about the project to the town board, which he said are not well attended. Irvine said meetings should be held closer to the weekends because many West Kill residents are weekenders.
“It’s great to see people get together,” Irvine said. “I learned coming to board meetings — that’s where the power lies.”
Planning Board Deputy Chairman Ralph Albino could not be reached for comment.
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM