Judge sides with J. Kings over agri-park court battle

02/22/2013 4:00 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Workers hang a sign outside the agri-park facility in 2012.

A state Supreme Court judge has upheld a Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals decision that allowed J. Kings Food Service Professionals to open a “Grapes and Greens” food processing center on Sound Avenue last year.

The defeated lawsuit had been filed by Austin Warner, a neighboring property owner, who also challenged the town’s issuance of a building permit for the proposed facility, what J. Kings has dubbed an agri-park, located in a former Blackman Plumbing building in Calverton.

The town ZBA upheld the building permit in a June 14, 2012, ruling, in which the ZBA allowed the facility to be used as a warehouse, which was a permitted use under a 1974 ZBA ruling, rather than as an agricultural site.

Mr. Warner challenged that ruling. In a Feb, 6 decision, state Supreme Court judge Jeffrey Arlen Spinner wrote, “the decision of the ZBA was proper under the circumstances.” He added, “it is widely held that a ZBA has broad discretion, and judicial review is limited to ascertaining whether the action taken by the ZBA was illegal, arbitrary and capricious, or an abuse of discretion. There has been no proof submitted by [Mr. Warner] which supports a conclusion that the board acted in an illegal, arbitrary and capricious manner or abused its discretion.”

Judge Spinner said there were nearly two hours of testimony at the ZBA hearing, including that of building inspector Sharon Klos, who stated her reasons for issuing the permit.

Ms. Klos said at the time she granted the permit because she believed the uses Mr. King proposed for the site were within the scope of a warehouse, and that the history of the building showed that the warehouse use had not been discontinued.

Steve Angel, Mr. Warner’s attorney, could not be reached for comment on the decision.

READ MORE ABOUT THE AGRI-PARK

He had argued that the ZBA ruling failed to supply any supporting documentation to support its verdict, failed to require health department approval for the project and allowed false information stating that the property was owned by John King J. King Realty.

Mr. Warner’s lawsuit also claimed the ZBA violated the open meetings law by taking a break in the hearing to discuss the case in private, before coming back and making a decision.

Grapes and Greens, which is billed as an “agricultural enterprise zone,” takes local produce and processes, cuts, bar codes and stores it prior to being sent to Long Island and New York City markets. It also provides storage space for local wineries.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter called the ruling “a huge victory for farmers and for the Long Island Wine Council,” which all stand to benefit.

He said he hasn’t heard any complaints about the facility since it’s been operating and hasn’t noticed any changes in truck traffic in the area.

“I was always very supportive of that use on that property,” he said. “That’s what it was originally built for.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

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