Judge: Go-kart suit against Riverhead can proceed

A federal judge recently rejected a motion made by Riverhead Town to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the town by F1 Long Island, the company that has long proposed building a go-kart racing complex off Edwards Avenue in Calverton.

The F1 group also rejected the town’s offer to settle.

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 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.”

F1’s suit points to a 2005 town Zoning Board of Appeals decision that found the proposed track was a permitted use under the property’s zoning, while the bus terminal required a special permit in the same zone.

“We are delighted with the judge’s decision,” said F1 CEO Marc Leibowitz. “It validates what we have been saying. When the ZBA approved this use in 2005, the town should have approved our site plan shortly thereafter. Now we are seeking our site plan approval, and damages.”

F1’s proposal to build a go-kart track and clubhouse on 12 acres just south of FedEx on the west side of Edwards Avenue was rejected by the town Planning Board in 2009 on the grounds that the environmental impact study F1 submitted for the project didn’t contain enough information on the facility’s potential noise and traffic impacts.

The F1 case was actually dismissed in federal court in April 2010, but the judge allowed the company to amend and resubmit the case.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt then denied the town’s motion to dismiss the revised case, saying that the F1 group demonstrated it has a “plausible” chance of succeeding with its claim showing the alleged different treatment their application received when compared to Hampton Jitney.

“The F1 case is something that should have been settled,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said during an interview. “The documentation that the attorneys from F1 provided in their legal memorandum went 90 percent of the way that the Riverhead Planning Board wanted, and so, when I came into office, I suggested we settle this case, get the thing approved and move forward.”

But the F1 group rejected that offer, the supervisor said.

“The town offered to settle out of court, accept my [environmental impact study] immediately and begin the site plan review process if I dropped my federal lawsuit first, with prejudice,” Mr. Leibowitz said. “But after six years, my lawyers and partners will not let me do that.

“How could we trust them after they screwed me for six years?”

“Because there’s a new sheriff in town,” Mr. Walter responded to a reporter when told of Mr. Leibowitz’s comment.

The go-kart team remains skeptical.

“If it were not for the lawsuit, they would not ever talk with me,” Mr. Leibowitz said.

He said dropping the lawsuit “with prejudice” meant he could never sue for the same reason again.

F1 also was on the receiving end of a lawsuit filed by the owners of a neighboring horse farm and the town, alleging that F1 was illegally using the property for motorbike riding.

That lawsuit has been withdrawn and F1 has agreed not to ride near the horse farm, Mr. Leibowitz said.

F1 is still using the property for motorbike and ATV riding, according to its website, although it specifically states that the site is not open to the public and is open only to “friends and guests.”

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