02/07/14 11:32am
02/07/2014 11:32 AM
Tim Gannon photo | Clearing at Knightland started this week

Tim Gannon photo | Clearing at Knightland started this week

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.

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01/07/14 2:05pm
01/07/2014 2:05 PM

liveblog

Despite efforts from a local civic organization to halt it, the Riverhead Town Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to issue a land clearing permit for the Knightland shopping center proposed at the intersection of Sound Avenue and Route 25A in Wading River.

The board had planned to vote on a similar resolution in August, despite a court case filed by the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition challenging the town Planning Board’s approval of the project. But a last minute court ruling put that vote on hold.

In December, a state appellate court ruled that the RNPC and others who had brought the lawsuit didn’t have legal standing to sue on the matter, and dismissed the case.

With the lawsuit out of the way, the Town Board discussed the clearing permit briefly at last Thursday’s work session and agreed to issue it.

“I note that my client has paid all of the required site plan fees and the substantial building permit fees, and both a clearing permit and a building permit should now issue,” said Peter Danowski, the attorney for Knightland owner Kenney Barra, in a letter to the Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz on Monday. Mr. Barra also owns the adjacent East Wind Caterers.

Knightland’s plan calls for 32,500 square feet of retail space and a 4,900-square-foot restaurant in a complex comprising 24 small buildings.

RNPC said on its web site that the court ruling dismissed their case “without ever considering the merits of the lawsuit brought on behalf of the community.”

Mr. Danowski said at the work session that his client has paid $23,000 in building fees, but that they are not removing or importing any sand or material and will not have to pay the $2 per cubic yard fee the town charges for excavations or importation of material from construction sites.

The meeting starts at 2 p.m. and New-Review reporter Tim Gannon will be live blogging. Click below to follow or comment, and see the full meeting agenda and resolutions packet below that.

January 7, 2014 – Agenda by Timesreview

January 7, 2014 – Packet by Timesreview

01/02/14 10:00am
01/02/2014 10:00 AM

liveblog

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to discuss at its work session today the clearing permit for Knightlands, a proposed shopping center in Wading River that has been involved in litigation.

The board also is scheduled to discuss filling a vacancy on the town Planning Board left by the resignation of longtime member Lou Boschetti. In addition, the board plans to discuss a plan to reduce the number of parking spaces the town requires in some developments, and the Hamlet Center zoning district.

The meeting starts at 10 a.m. and News-Review reporter Tim Gannon will be live blogging. Click below to follow or comment and see the full meeting agenda below that.

January 2, 2014 – Agenda by Timesreview

09/30/13 5:12pm
09/30/2013 5:12 PM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO  |  A model, presented in 2011, of the Knightland development planned for Wading River.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | A model, presented in 2011, of the Knightland development planned for Wading River.

A state panel of judges upheld a ruling on Friday that will keep construction on a Wading River retail complex on hold – at least, for now.

The New York State Appellate panel ruled to allow a restraining order on building and excavation permits to stay in place while another appellate judge rules on an appeal of a lawsuit against Riverhead Town made by the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, said Dominique Mendez, president and co-founder of the local civic group.

The Knightland plan calls for 32,500 square feet of retail space and a 4,900-square-foot restaurant in a complex comprising 24 small buildings.

Knightland LLC received site plan approval from the Riverhead Planning Board in late 2011. Members of RNPC filed a lawsuit challenging that approval the following day, claiming the project didn’t comply with zoning and that the town failed to consider the cumulative impacts of the project along with other development proposals in the area.

The case was later thrown out of court after a judge ruled the group did not have the legal standing to sue the town.

The group has filed an appeal to revive the suit, arguing that they have legal standing and that their suit should be judged on its merits.

“We just think the courts should really weigh in on this and it shouldn’t just be the bulldozers that make the decision,” Ms. Mendez said.

The restraining order prevents the Town from issuing land clearing, excavation, or building permits for the site, essentially preventing the project from moving forward until a judge reaches a decision on their appeal.

“The last thing we need is more land to be cleared,” Ms. Mendez said. “It’s not so easy to put back the trees.”

Peter Danowski, who represents the owner of the Knightland property, Kenn Barra, did not immediately return a request for comment.

08/16/13 8:00am
08/16/2013 8:00 AM

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | The site of the Knightland shopping center at the corner of Sound Avenue and Route 25A. Village Beverage has since moved.

The Riverhead Town Board appears ready to grant an excavation permit that will pave the way for the construction of Knightland, the controversial retail center planned for the intersection of Route 25A and Sound Avenue in Wading River.

Board members discussed the plan briefly at last Thursday’s work session and informally agreed to issue the permit at the upcoming Town Board meeting — despite the fact that there is still an active lawsuit challenging Knightland’s site plan approvals.

That suit is currently in the appellate division of the courts, after the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, which challenged the town’s initial approvals, appealed a state Supreme Court ruling dismissing their original case, according to town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz.

The courts have not issued any orders preventing the development from moving forward while the case is being appealed, and have rejected a request to issue one, he said.

“The risk, if there is any, is on [Knightland principal] Kenney Barra,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. “The litigants had applied for a temporary restraining order and were denied, so there is no prohibition against us issuing the permit, and the developer could actually go to court and force us to issue the permit.

“If the developer begins construction and then loses the lawsuit, then Kenney Barra has a problem.”

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | A model, presented in 2011, of the Knightland development planned for Wading River.

Peter Danowski, the attorney for Mr. Barra who’s been asking the town since March to issue an excavation permit for the project, said he didn’t think it was risky to proceed with the development while the appeal is still pending.

“It’s risky to invest in projects in an economy that’s not great, but these investments hopefully will increase the tax base in the town,” Mr. Danowski said.

Mr. Walter said he liked the site plan Mr. Barra has submitted and doesn’t think it will clear-cut all the trees on the parcel, as several developers have done recently on Route 58.

“Kenney Barra does a nice job with landscaping,” Mr. Walter said. “There’s a couple of pretty dense tree buffers proposed in several locations and there’s a natural tree buffer around Sound Avenue and he does a beautiful job of dressing up East Wind Caterers,” which Mr. Barra owns.

“When you’re driving along Sound Avenue, you don’t even notice that East Wind is there,” Mr. Walter said.

“When he does something, he does it right,” Councilman John Dunleavy said of Mr. Barra.

The triangular-shaped property for which the shopping center is proposed had been rented to a beverage store.

The Knightland plan calls for 32,500 square feet of retail space and a 4,900-square-foot restaurant in a complex comprising 24 small buildings.

Knightland LLC received site plan approval from the Riverhead Planning Board on Dec. 15, 2011. Members of the nonprofit Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition filed a lawsuit challenging that approval the following day.

The lawsuit claimed the project didn’t comply with the zoning for the property and that the town failed to consider the cumulative impacts of this project along with other development proposals in the area.

State Supreme Court Justice Hector LaSalle dismissed the case in April 2012 on the grounds that the nonprofit and the three residents who joined its lawsuit as individuals all lacked “standing” to bring the action and failed to show how they would be negatively affected by the development.

The Town Board declined to include Knightland in the Route 25A planning study it initiated two years ago because of the lawsuit.

“Once the Town Board refused to intervene and the Planning Board approved this tourist mall — despite state environmental law and the zoning — and then the litigation process became protracted, this clearing permit became fairly inevitable,” said RNPC president Dominique Mendez. “It’s how the process works and it works especially well for developers.

“I certainly hope that Mr. Barra does not tear down these woods without having first attained his financing and securing his tenants, otherwise all the community may be left with is a wide swath of stripped land at the start of the Sound Avenue historic rural corridor,” she said.

The Town Board recently made code revisions that require developers to obtain a building permit before a clearing permit can be issued. The changes were made after several town officials came under criticism when a handful of Route 58 developers got the OK to clear-cut land before acquiring building permits. Town planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree said the building permits for Knightland are ready to be issued. Mr. Walter said he anticipates the excavating and building permits will be issued simultaneously.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/08/13 9:45am
08/08/2013 9:45 AM

liveblog

Click on the blog box below for a recap from Thursday’s meeting.

The Riverhead Town Board is discussing Southampton Town’s proposal for a footbridge across the Peconic River into downtown Riverhead at its work session Thursday.

Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, is speaking before the board on the proposal, which his organization and Legislator Jay Schneiderman has pushed as part of an overall effort to jump-start business development in the beleaguered Riverside hamlet.

In addition, the board is discussing the Knightland application for excavating permit, which would be used to build a commercial development at the corner of Sound Avenue and Route 25A in Wading River.

That application has withstood legal challenges, and the attorney for the applicant — developer and EastWind Caterers owner Kenn Barra — has been asking for the excavating permit for several weeks now.

The board also will discuss legislation limiting houseboats in town waters.

The meeting starts at 10 a.m. and News-Review reporter Tim Gannon will be reporting live.

Click below to follow or comment.

 

August_8,_2013_-_Agenda(1) by Riverhead News-Review

02/13/13 5:00pm
02/13/2013 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Traffic along Route 25A in Wading River.

Two civil lawsuits were filed this week challenging Riverhead Town’s rezoning of Wading River properties that was based on recommendations in a Route 25A corridor study adopted last year.

The lawsuits were filed by the owners of two of the three large parcels that were rezoned.

One property is a vacant six-acre parcel on the south side of Route 25A owned by Knightland Inc., a company headed by East Wind Caterers’ owner, Kenney Barra.

The other is an 11-acre parcel owned by Constance Partridge, Maryann Stajk, and Kathleen Condzella.

The Knightland property has a site plan approval from the Town Board dating from November 2002 for a 50-room country inn with a 100-seat restaurant. In October 2012, The Town Board voted to change the zoning on that property from business CR to “multi-family residential/professional office,” (MFRP) a category that would permit neither the country inn nor the restaurant.

Owners of the Partridge-Stajk-Condzella property, also rezoned from business CR to MFRP in October 2012, had filed a site plan application on Dec. 5, 2011, for a commercial shopping center. That use would also not be permitted under the new zoning.

The town initiated the Wading River Corridor Study in July 2011, and it was completed in draft form a year later.

Both lawsuits were filed by the same attorney, John Wagner, and they contain similar language and claims.

The zoning changes “were not adopted in the interest of the public health, safety, or welfare, or based on valid zoning or planning interests, but were improperly, illegally and unconstitutionally designed and intended to halt the processing and approval of several pending development applications that were in conformance with subsisting zoning,” the lawsuits claim.

The property owners also claim the town’s actions were done to “appease individuals and civic groups opposed to development of privately-owned lands in accordance with subsisting zoning classifications and regulations.”

Supervisor Sean Walter declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuits, and Mr. Wagner could not be reached for comment.

The third large property rezoned as a result of the Corridor Study is a 5.6 acre farm owned by John Condzella and located between the other two parcels.

At a public hearing, Mr. Condzella supported the zone change, saying that having commercial development next door would make it difficult to farm.

The two lawsuits filed this week also claim that there were defects in the town’s approval of its 2003 master plan, a claim made in several other lawsuits still pending between Riverhead Town and landowners.

In addition to the property involved in the recent lawsuit, Knightland Inc. owns another parcel to the east, near the intersection of 25A and Sound Avenue. That property was not included in the Route 25A study because civic groups had sued the town over Planning Board approvals for a commercial project.

That suit was thrown out of state Supreme Court in January 2012.

tgannon@timesreview.com