Judge tosses suit seeking to block Great Rock’s clubhouse expansion

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Blackwell's restaurant at Great Rock.

A state Supreme Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block Great Rock Golf Club’s proposed expansion of its clubhouse in Wading River, on the grounds that the lawsuit was premature because no official Planning Board decision had yet been reached on the proposal.

The Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition civic group, along with several Wading River residents, filed the lawsuit asking the courts to declare that the town Planning Board lacked jurisdiction to review or approve Great Rock’s application to expand its clubhouse because it relies on a zone change, which that board cannot grant.

It also sought a ruling that the Riverhead Town Board was prohibited from granting the expansion on the grounds that the expansion is prohibited by covenants and restrictions put on the land many years ago, and by the zoning of the land.

Judge Paul Baisley noted in his decision that there is no application before the Town Board. As for as the application before the Planning Board, he wrote:

“Petitioners’ assertions regarding the injuries they are likely to suffer as a result of the Planning Board’s acting on the application are purely speculative, and their submissions fail to establish that their claims cannot be adequately addressed by a proceeding to review the planning board’s determination after it is made.”

“Obviously, we’re happy,” said John Ciarelli, the attorney for Great Rock. “The project was unnecessarily delayed by RNPC and we want to move full speed ahead with it now. I think their lawsuit was designed only to frustrate my clients property rights and it had no legal basis.”

“This was not unexpected and we are fully prepared to file a follow-up action in the event the Planning Board tries to approve the proposal,” said RNPC president Dominique Mendez.

She added, “The judge’s decision simply postpones the determination about the fate of the project.  The RNPC will continue to work on the current planning study for this corridor, so that land use appropriate to the rural character of the hamlet is preserved.”

“I’m not surprised it was dismissed,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. “The lawsuit was premature.”

The lawsuit named both the applicants and the town as defendants.

Mr. Walter said the Town Board will probably at some point call up the application from the Planning Board. He said the applications will probably come down to either an interpretation of the covenants, which limited the project to golf-related uses, or to an application to expand a non-conforming use that predates its zoning. Both of those instances would fall under the jurisdiction of the Town Board, not the Planning Board, he said.

The application is still pending before the Planning Board and has yet to be decided.

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