Clearing has begun on the controversial Knightland project in Wading River, where 32,500 square feet of retail space and a 4,900 square foot restaurant are planned in 24 buildings. It will replace the former Village Beverage store at the corner of Sound Avenue and Route 25A.
The Riverhead Town Board approved a clearing project for the project on Jan. 7 of this year that allows Knightland to do a “balanced cut and fill,” which means no sand would be imported or exported from the site, which in turn means the applicant will not have to pay the $2 per cubic yard fee the town imposes on importation or exporting of sand.
Peter Danowski, the attorney for the applicant, said his client still had paid $23,000 in building fees on the project.
Knightland, which is owned by Kenney Barra, who owns the adjacent East Wind Caterers, Inn, Spa and Conference Center, was originally approved by the Riverhead Town Planning Board in December 2011, but that approval was immediately challenged by the non-profit Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coaliton and several residents, which claimed it was a “destination” retail center and was not permitted in the Business-Country Rural zoning for this area. The watchdog group also claimed the Planning Board failed to study the cumulative effects of this project combined with other large commercial projects that were proposed along Route 25A in Wading River at the same time.
A call to RNPC’s president, Dominique Mendez, was not immediately returned.
A state appellate court in December ruled that RNPC and others lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit, and dismissed it. RNPC says the court dismissed their lawsuit “without ever considering the merits of the lawsuit brought on behalf of the community.”
The Town Board had actually planned to issue the clearing permit last year when a last minute court ruling delayed that decision. With the appellate court ruling in December dismissing the case, the town was free to approve the clearing permit in January.