Developer: We’ll see Riverhead in court

12/05/2012 7:00 AM |
Calverton, Riverhead, Splish Splash

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | A lawsuit settlement would pave the way for a mixed-use development on this Route 25 and Manor Road land near Splish Splash in Calverton.

A proposed settlement in a series of seven-year-old lawsuits challenging Riverhead Town’s master plan did not come up for a vote at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, despite a developer’s threat to proceed with litigation if things weren’t settled by that date.

And now it may be too late.

Developer Charles Mancini told the News-Review after Tuesday’s meeting that his group will no longer consider a settlement and will proceed with the lawsuits.

“We’ve spent the better part of four years trying to reach a settlement,” he said. “We’ve tried to do whatever the town wanted us to do, but at every turn, it’s been the same thing, so we’re not going to waste time anymore.”

When asked why the proposed settlement wasn’t on the agenda, Supervisor Sean Walter, who favors the settlement, replied, “There doesn’t appear to be three votes.”

Mr. Walter has expressed concerns that if the town loses the lawsuit, its 2003 master plan and the zoning that resulted from it would be overturned, and the entire process would have to be redone.

Representatives of local civic and environmental organizations have urged the town to reject the settlement and defend its zoning.

The proposed settlement would allow Calverton Manor LLC to develop the property under the zoning criteria that existed before the master plan, with a campus-style complex that would include shops, courtyards and 40 apartments.

The two parcels that total about 41 acres are at the corner of Route 25 and Manor Road in Calverton. Under the settlement, just under half the property would be developed, Mr. Mancini told the Town Board last week, instead of the original plan to build over 35 1/2 acres.

At that public work session last Thursday, the settlement appeared to have four votes, with only Councilman Jim Wooten outwardly opposing it.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said her vote would be contingent on proof that then-town officials were stalling project, which Mr. Mancini and his lawyer had contended.

Sufficient proof was not satisfied as of Tuesday, Ms. Giglio said, adding she needed more time to research claims made by Mr. Mancini and his attorney, John Wagner, last week.

Councilman George Gabrielsen, who has supported the settlement, said he agreed to hold off on the vote out of respect for Ms. Giglio’s request for more time.

That was enough to prevent the issue from coming to a vote Tuesday.

Mr. Mancini and Vincent DiCanio had first proposed a 120,000-square-foot “big box” commercial development on the site in 2001, and then amended that in 2003 to show a smaller, “campus style” development with room for a facility like a YMCA.

But the 2003 master plan and the zoning adopted based on its recommendations changed the zoning on the property to allow less intense commercial development. Calverton Manor then filed a lawsuit challenging the rezoning in 2005.

Calverton Manor has actually filed five lawsuits challenging the town’s master plan and zoning.

Ms. Giglio said she wasn’t concerned about the developer’s threat of withdrawing the settlement because Calverton Manor still hadn’t responded to court papers from several weeks ago. She said she still planned to bring the settlement up for a vote at the next Town Board meeting in two weeks.

But that would be too late, according to Mr. Mancini.

“We always felt we have a pretty strong case,” Mr. Mancini said. “We really think the town made some dramatic errors in the master plan and I think that’s the reason the town had indicated they wanted to try and settle it. But we’ll let the courts decide now.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

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