Judge: Go-kart suit against Riverhead can proceed

03/25/2011 12:12 PM |

A federal judge recently rejected a motion made by Riverhead Town to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the town by F1 Long Island, the company that has long proposed building a go-kart racing complex off Edwards Avenue in Calverton.

The F1 group also rejected the town’s offer to settle.

F1 Long Island filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Riverhead in 2009, claiming that the town singled it out “to enforce and modify laws that are not being applied to anyone else similarly situated,” according to court documents.

The lawsuit claims the town deliberately stalled F1’s application but granted special permit approval for a proposed Hampton Jitney bus terminal further south on Edwards Avenue — a use F1 maintains would create more noise and be more intense than its proposed tracks.

The lawsuit claims the town denied F1 “exactly what they granted to Hampton Jitney.”

F1’s suit points to a 2005 town Zoning Board of Appeals decision that found the proposed track was a permitted use under the property’s zoning, while the bus terminal required a special permit in the same zone.

“We are delighted with the judge’s decision,” said F1 CEO Marc Leibowitz. “It validates what we have been saying. When the ZBA approved this use in 2005, the town should have approved our site plan shortly thereafter. Now we are seeking our site plan approval, and damages.”

F1’s proposal to build a go-kart track and clubhouse on 12 acres just south of FedEx on the west side of Edwards Avenue was rejected by the town Planning Board in 2009 on the grounds that the environmental impact study F1 submitted for the project didn’t contain enough information on the facility’s potential noise and traffic impacts.

The F1 case was actually dismissed in federal court in April 2010, but the judge allowed the company to amend and resubmit the case.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt then denied the town’s motion to dismiss the revised case, saying that the F1 group demonstrated it has a “plausible” chance of succeeding with its claim showing the alleged different treatment their application received when compared to Hampton Jitney.

“The F1 case is something that should have been settled,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said during an interview. “The documentation that the attorneys from F1 provided in their legal memorandum went 90 percent of the way that the Riverhead Planning Board wanted, and so, when I came into office, I suggested we settle this case, get the thing approved and move forward.”

But the F1 group rejected that offer, the supervisor said.

“The town offered to settle out of court, accept my [environmental impact study] immediately and begin the site plan review process if I dropped my federal lawsuit first, with prejudice,” Mr. Leibowitz said. “But after six years, my lawyers and partners will not let me do that.

“How could we trust them after they screwed me for six years?”

“Because there’s a new sheriff in town,” Mr. Walter responded to a reporter when told of Mr. Leibowitz’s comment.

The go-kart team remains skeptical.

“If it were not for the lawsuit, they would not ever talk with me,” Mr. Leibowitz said.

He said dropping the lawsuit “with prejudice” meant he could never sue for the same reason again.

F1 also was on the receiving end of a lawsuit filed by the owners of a neighboring horse farm and the town, alleging that F1 was illegally using the property for motorbike riding.

That lawsuit has been withdrawn and F1 has agreed not to ride near the horse farm, Mr. Leibowitz said.

F1 is still using the property for motorbike and ATV riding, according to its website, although it specifically states that the site is not open to the public and is open only to “friends and guests.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

47 Comment

  • Surprise, surprise: another major loss for Riverhead involving allegations of discriminatory conduct and favors for the friends and family network.

    Will it be too long before the Town gets hit with a multimillion dollar verdict thanks to Sandmine Sean and his equally incompetent cronies?

  • About time!! Three cheers for justice, however long it took to be served.

  • It’s about damn time…let’s get that go kart track going and get some racing on the track.

  • Way to go F1. Stand up for blatant injustice that was done by the Cardinale/Blass Administration. It takes a Federal Judge to take down the local sheriff and his henchmen deputies. Justice is on your side. So if there truly is a new sheriff in town, let him start by offering you serious money for all of your damages and the unwarranted aggravation you incurred. Words are cheap. Action is loud. Don’t stop now, don’t even slow down. Bravo.

  • If the “New Sheriff in town” is serious about settleing this lawsuit (and saving the taxpayers millions in damages from this lawsuit) then he could easily do so by instructing his planning board and planning department to accept and approve the F1 fEIS and the F1 Site Plan at the same time as F1 drops the lawsuits. The Director of Planning and the Planning Board’s failure to comply with his directions should be cause for dismissal and other measures. As every month adds over ten thousand dollars to the damages tally, I challenge the Supervisor to “Get This DONE” before the end of April, 2010 and stop wasting taxpayer dollars on ego driven lawsuits. Come on Supervisor – get personally involved and help your planning department come up with an acceptable and fair settlement that moves this project forward.

    Marc Leibowitz
    CEO, F1 Long Island, LLC

  • My family has been waiting to hear this good news for a long te and can’t wait to get out on the track and have some fun. Will also be great to be able to have some lunch during racing in their restarant. Well the wait is over.

  • Bravo! Justice finally prevails! Maybe you shouldn’t spend that $500,000k for a new study on the EPCAL property just yet Mr “New Sheriff in town” ! ! Seems you might be needing it to pay for a portion of the lawsuit you will be loosing.

  • What a shame their investors backed out.

  • Too bad you don’t know what you are talking about! We are ready to invest and build a world class venue.

  • Too bad you don’t know what you are talking about! We are ready to invest and build a world class venue.

  • It was a long time coming. Thanks for sticking to your guns F-1. Has anybody ever thought how many have walked away because of the politics of it all. Creating jobs and quality of life requires creative thinkers working together. There is a place for every Islanders passions. It should never have to come to this.

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