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Settlement is off in Calverton Go Kart track lawsuit

01/25/2016 9:00 AM |
A 2008 rendering of the F1 Long Island track

A 2008 rendering of the F1 Long Island track

Gentlemen, don’t start your engines just yet!

A proposed settlement in the federal lawsuit filed by a go-kart track developer against Riverhead Town is off.

“Settlement has failed in this case,” U.S. Magistrate Gary Brown wrote on Tuesday. “Case re-opened, on consent of all parties.”

Moto 1 Long Island, formerly called F1 Long Island, is proposing a series of go-kart tracks and a clubhouse on 12 acres on the west side of Edwards Avenue. The application was first submitted in 2005.

Last Friday, William Wexler, the attorney for Moto 1 Long Island , wrote in a letter to the judge that the town wasn’t holding up its end of the settlement.

“The parties last appeared before this court at a conference where the parties believed that the matter would be settled,” Mr. Wexler said. “All that was needed was for the Town of Riverhead planning department to review the plaintiff’s site plan and issue the building permit. The plaintiffs have been waiting approximately six months and the town has failed to take action.”

“At the town’s current pace, it appears unlikely that any action will be taken in the near or distance future,” he wrote.

The Town Board also discussed the case in executive session on Thursday morning and Supervisor Sean Walter said afterward that there will be no settlement in the case.

Mr. Walter said Moto 1’s proposal should go through the planning process and added that they were looking for money as part of the settlement, which the town opposes.

Reached by phone, Moto 1 chief executive officer Marc Leibowitz declined to comment on the litigation.

The then-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 then-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.”

The settlement discussions began in 2013 and the project had received approval from the Suffolk County Planning Commission. Initially, the two sides appeared to be close to reaching a settlement with the town, according to court documents.

A planning department staff report this week says a Zoning Board of Appeals variance the project received in 2006 has expired and a new variance is needed.

The property is zoned Industrial C and a “commercial sports and recreational facility” is allowed in that zone. But the code also classifies a go-kart track as a “motor vehicle raceway,” meaning it couldn’t operate between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., or from 4 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. for more than two days a week in the summer months.

The planning staff report also says the state Department of Transportation believes traffic from the site will negatively impact traffic at the intersection of Edwards Avenue and Route 25 and suggests the town require Moto 1 to donate at least 12 feet along Edwards Avenue to accommodate future road widening.

Likewise, the state Department of Environmental Conservation last visited the site in 2006 and a new on-site inspection by DEC should also be completed, the staff report says.

The go-kart track application was on the Riverhead Town Planning Board agenda as of Wednesday afternoon. But by the time the meeting started on Thursday afternoon, it had been removed from the agenda.

“We wanted to sit with them at a work session and cover over this,” said Planning Board chairman Stan Carey. “There are some pretty significant issues needed to be addressed. We’re going to try and have them come in as soon as we can.”

Still, Planning Board member Ed Denieski asked why it was taken off the agenda.

“I don’t want to see it getting put off and put off,” Mr. Densieski said. “It’s been 12 years.”

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