A post on the The Beechwood Organization’s website announcing its homes at the Highlands Club in Aquebogue promises a “carefree, low-maintenance lifestyle” in a single-family home built by “Long Island’s leading residential builder.”
With prices starting at a half-million dollars, the 14 new homes were to be built around an already existing but unfinished development with “resort-style amenities on manicured grounds with tree-lined cul-de-sacs,” the June 2014 posting promised.
Two years later, each of the final 14 homes on the 42-acre property has been built and sold. But driving around the development, where each of the homes still appear sparkling new and the properties are meticulously maintained, one thing seems clearly out of place: the development’s unfinished and torn-up roads.
“[The original developer] only put down a base coat and it’s been down for years now,” Riverhead Town Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson said at a Town Board work session last Thursday. “Now, that base coat is pretty much gone and would have to be ground up.”
Due to a contractual dispute that has led to litigation involving that original developer, Riverhead Sound Associates, Beechwood and the Highlands of Aquebogue Homeowners Association, only one road covering a small portion of the property was ever completed.
At the center of the controversy is a dispute between the two developers over which is responsible for finishing the roads. The base layer was laid down by Riverhead Sound Associates, an LLC fronted by developer Charles Kushner, before it sold the existing development and its 14 remaining lots to Beechwood in 2014. The new developer was to complete the road surfacing, as per the sales contract, but Riverhead Town determined in 2015 that the base layer is so deteriorated it needs to be lifted and redone before moving forward. So, who does that work?
Representatives of the homeowners association met with the Town Board last week to see if the town would consider calling the $636,000 performance bond Riverhead Sound Associates posted at the start of the project as the original sponsor of the development, so that a portion of that money could be used to lift and resurface the roads before weather from another winter season damages them further.
Highlands HOA trustee Vincent Lyons, who bought his home in the development more than a decade ago, told the Town Board the estimated cost to fix the roads would be under $400,000, with the bulk of that going toward lifting and reinstalling the base layer. Mr. Woodson said Beechwood would then have to install a two-inch top coat layer to complete the private roads to town specifications, something Mr. Lyons said the developer has assured the homeowners it will do “if and when the base layer is repaired.”
Beechwood principal Steven Dubb offered the following statement Tuesday: “In 2014, Beechwood purchased the last 14 unsold home sites at Highlands at Aquebogue from the community’s original developer. Beechwood amended the offering plan on April 22, 2014 and sold the remaining homes within a year. With respect to the roads, under the terms of its purchase, Beechwood was only responsible for issues related to the 14 homes it sold and for installing the Top Coat of paving. Beechwood even put funds to pay for the Top Coat paving in an escrow account when it acquired the remaining 14 home sites. Upon completion of the final home, Beechwood asked permission from the Town of Riverhead to pave the Top Coat, and was instructed by the Town not to proceed until additional testing and repairs were done to the existing Binder Course of paving, which had been completed by the original developer. That testing and repair work is the responsibility of the original developer, and Beechwood is prepared to quickly complete the Top Coat once the original developer fulfills their responsibilities and the Town gives Beechwood permission to proceed.”
In its own statement, Riverhead Sound Associates, through a spokesperson for Kushner companies, sang a different tune. “We are working to remedy the situation with the company that purchased the property and is responsible for fixing the roads,” the statement read.
Town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz and Supervisor Sean Walter said last week that the town has sent a letter to Riverhead Sound Associates announcing the town’s intent to call the bond, but that given the current litigation it’s unlikely to result in a response that would lead to the completion of the roads.
The more likely scenario, Mr. Walter said, is that the bond will be called in January and the work will be completed by a company hired by the bond agency, but that would likely not occur until next spring.
For the property owners, who have also taken their concerns to the New York State attorney general’s office, that amounts to nearly one more year of waiting.
“What frustrates our neighbors is they open up Newsday and there’s another full-page ad of Beechwood opening another place,” HOA trustee Susan King told the Town Board.
Mr. Walter told HOA representatives that the Town Board understands the community’s concerns. “But sometimes the wheels of government don’t always turn as quickly as everyone wants,” he said.
Top photo: One side street within the Highlands Club in Aquebogue has been completed, but most of the roadways consist of an initial base layer that has begun to deteriorate. (Credit: Grant Parpan)