The Winery at St. George
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What is the history of the Old Stone Church?
Aimee La Farge-Heins commissioned the construction of the St. George Chapel in memory of her
husband
George Lewis Heins and her brother John La Farge.  It was designed in French Norman
Style architecture by the firm of
Hewitt & Bottomley and was completed in May 1912.  Shortly
thereafter, she donated the Chapel to the Archdiocese of New York.

In 1963, the chapel was renamed Blessed Elizabeth Ann Seton in honor of the first American
beatified by the Vatican.  In September 1975, Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized and the chapel
was renamed Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.  As the congregation grew, the parish moved to its present
location in Shrub Oak.

The Archdiocese of New York de-sanctified the church and on March 21st, 1984 sold the building
to Mr. & Mrs. Jack Nathan of New York City.  The building sat idle for roughly 20 years before it
was purchased by Mr. Michael Palmietto in August 2000.  Mr. Palmietto planned to open a
restaurant at the location.  His plan was encouraged and supported by the Yorktown Town Board.  
One current board member, Mr. Nicholas Bianco, appeared on channel 12 news endorsing the plan.
 After construction started, some board members withdrew their support for reasons stated in Mr.
Mike Palmietto Affidavit.

Mr. Palmietto sold the building to Mr. Thomas DeChiaro of Mahopac, NY in August 2005 with the
hopes that Mr. DeChiaro would be successful in opening an upscale winery.  Mr. Palmietto passed
away on January 16, 2009 without seeing his desire to revitalize the building come to fruition.

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Is the Old Stone Church a landmark?
No. Shortly after taking ownership, Mr. DeChiaro was approached by the Town Board and the
Landmark Commission regarding landmark status.  Mr. DeChiaro had respectfully requested that
the Town refrain from any action until he had time to review the landmark laws.  Contrary to his
request, the Town immediately started landmark proceedings.  This process prevented Mr.
DeChiaro from obtaining building permits for over a year.

Mr. DeChiaro wanted to protect the building’s historical elements by suggesting that the Town
landmark the slate roof, exterior stonework and original mosaic floor tiles.  He reasoned that
recently added items such as flooring and windows held no historical significance.  The Town
Board rejected Mr. DeChiaro’s request sighting the recently enacted
(2004) landmark law which
was approved by the Yorktown Town Board.  This law strips the property owner of all his/her
rights as it relates to landmark status.  This means the Town Board has sole power to designate
landmark status to a building without the owner’s consent.

The
Town Board expressed a desire to have full control over the building and any renovations that
were to occur.  Mr. DeChiaro saw this as an attempt by the Town Board to restrict the creative
freedom to decorate his private property as well as hinder him from proceeding with his winery
plans.  On July 18th, 2006, the Town Board rejected landmark status in a 3-2 vote. (see:
Full
Meeting Minutes)

Back to Questions
Are there parking issues?
No. The current property along with adjacent land currently leased from New York State provide
for adequate parking.  Valet parking is available off site and land directly east of the building can be
leased or purchased from the Town for additional parking.  In 1993, a substantial amount of
taxpayer dollars were used by the Town to condemn and acquire this land in order to prevent the
owner, Mr. Salvatore Ardizzone, from developing on his private property. As part of a resolution,
the Town Board agreed to lease or sell the property, for commercial use, to offset the cost of the
settlement.  This land is currently vacant, filled with debris and not generating tax revenue for the
town.  This land can be put to good use, kept green and cleaned at the owner’s expense.

A recent police report concerning a fund raiser for the Katonah Museum on May 28th, 2009 sited:
"the event housed 100 guests and that there were no parking violations utilizing the current parking
spaces."

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FAQ's
Are the wetlands being impacted?
No. Wetlands do exist in the area and they must be protected.  Violations for dumping in the
wooded wetlands area between the building and the strip mall were issued by the Town.  These
violations are unfounded as the items in the wetlands (a screen door with years of growth around it
and roadside garbage blowing in from Rt. 6 and the strip mall) have existed for years before Mr.
DeChiaro obtained the building.  Mr. DeChiaro is due in court in September, 2009 for these
violation in Somers Town Court as two judges from Yorktown removed themselves from the case.
(see:
Howard Orneck Affidavit and Chris Sciarra Affidavit)

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Will nearby residents be disturbed?
No. The Winery is located in the Mohegan Lake Business District. There are no residents in the
surrounding area.

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Were the proper permits for a zone change filed?
Mr. DeChiaro was specifically told by several Town Board members that they would not approve a
commercial zone change for the building unless he widened Rt. 6.  Mr. DeChiaro saw this as
discriminatory as no other businesses on Rt. 6 were required to widen this State owned road which
is out of Yorktown’s jurisdiction. (See Link & Scroll down to St. George Winery:
Meeting Minutes
Feb. 26 2008)

The property, as currently zoned, allows a farm use as a matter of right.  A winery is recognized by
the New York State Department of Agriculture as a farm. (see:
Letter from NYS Department of
Agriculture)

A Local zone change is not required to operate as a winery.  New York State suggested that Mr.
DeChiaro seek protection from the Department of Agriculture by applying to the County for
inclusion into the State’s Agriculture District.  The application was ignored by Westchester County
due to political pressure from the Town Board. Westchester County has never denied or ignored an
application recommended by the Farmland Protection Board.   This was the main issue stated in the
30 million dollar lawsuit which was recently dismissed by Magistrate Smith on May 8th, 2009.

Although Mr. DeChiaro believes that his current zoning allows for his winery to operate, an
application for a local transitional zone change was submitted to the town on Sept 4th 2009.

Back to Questions
What is the status of the winery’s addition into the agricultural district?
An application for 2009 was filed with the County.   By law, their response was due by May 31st,
2009.  This date has expired without any action by the County for the third time.  The Department
of Agriculture suggested that Mr. DeChiaro file an article 78 against the County.  This will be filed
shortly.

What is an article 78?
In the State of New York it is one of the legal grounds under which a government official’s official
action may be challenged in the state court of law under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and
Rules.

Why was the lawsuit dismissed?
The lawsuit sited civil rights & other violations by the Town and County concerning the application
for inclusion into the State’s Agricultural District.  The lawsuit was dismissed based on the Town’s
assertion that the owner did not file an application for a local zone change.  Judge Smith failed to
address most of the claims stated in the lawsuit.  An appeal is pending.

Back to Questions
Why might the Town Board obstruct a path to open?
Mr. Nicolas Bianco & Mr. Louis Campisi spearheaded a proposal to acquire the building and
suggested turning it into a visitor center, nature center, or museum, etc.  They were working with
two activists, Mr. & Mrs. John Gordon of Mohegan Lake.  Mr. & Mrs. Gordon want Mr.
DeChiaro to donate the building to the town.

Do you have a liquor license?
A Federal winery license has been obtained.  The State license has been denied because the Town
Board instructed the building inspector to send a letter to the State’s Liquor Authority objecting to
the winery.

How were you able to open in the past?
Temporary day licenses were obtained from the State Liquor Authority.  Since then, the Town
Board has contacted the State Liquor Authority thus blocking the issuance of additional licenses.

Back to Questions
I heard that the Town is taking the owner to court, is that true?
Yes. At additional tax payer expense, the Town Board passed a resolution to investigate and bring
an injunction against Mr. DeChiaro to prevent him from having any gatherings at the location.  
They filed a lawsuit in State court on July 9th, 2009.

What permits are required for the winery to open?
The winery can open with any of following:
  1. inclusion into the State’s Agricultural District
  2. a transition or commercial zone change
  3. a special use permit from the town

The winery needs the appropriate license from the State Liquor Authority.

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Yorktown residents can register and vote in the upcoming primary election on September 15th,
2009 and in the general election on November 3rd, 2009.  Please encourage all your family and
friends to do the same.  

Yorktown needs Board members that are pro-business, pro-job creation and responsive to the will
of the people they represent.

  • Register to vote. Registration forms can be obtained here:                                                
    NYS Voter Registration Form
  • Residents & Non Residents can support People for Honest Government (PAC) at:                
    http://www.p4hg.org
  • Keep informed about Winery updates, fund raising events and election news by joining:

  1. The Winery Facebook Group
  2. Follow the Winery on Twitter
  3. The Winery email list

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