Settlement would see development in Calverton

Calverton, Riverhead, Splish Splash
TIM GANNON PHOTO | A lawsuit settlement would pave the way for a mixed-use development on this Route 25 and Manor Road land near Splish Splash in Calverton.

Riverhead Town is once again considering a proposed settlement to a lawsuit challenging the town’s 2003 master plan update that would essentially grant certain approvals to the developers behind a mixed-use development in Calverton.

But while the head of the Greater Calverton Civic Association says his organization opposes the settlement, insisting the town should defend its master plan, the 2005 challenge by Calverton Manor LLC asks the court to “void” the master plan in its entirety.

If the case proceeds and the court ruling goes against the town, the entire plan — and all the zoning adopted based on that plan — could have to be redone.

Calverton Manor, headed by developers Vincent DiCanio and Charles Mancini, sued after the town rezoned 35 acres the group owns on the northwest corner of Route 25 and Manor Road in Calverton, across from Splish Splash.

Prior to the zone change, Calverton Manor had proposed a 120,000-square-foot “big box” retail development for the property.

Since the lawsuit was filed, Calverton Manor has pitched several settlement offers, including building proposals for an assisted living center, a YMCA, affordable housing and stores.

A revised settlement, which would allow the property to be developed under its pre-Master Plan zoning, was discussed in January but wasn’t adopted by the Town Board after Supervisor Sean Walter opposed it. A new settlement offer, which also allows the property to be developed under previous zoning, was discussed briefly at last Thursday’s town Planning Board meeting.

The settlement would confine all proposed development to the 20 acres of Calverton Manor property that were previously zoned Business Country Rural, and that land would be developed under the old criteria of that zone as well, which permits more development that the post-Master Plan version of the same zone.

Another 14.75 acres to the north is zoned Agricultural Protection Zone and would remain preserved as open space under the settlement.

The settlement would allow for five or six buildings, none larger than 35,000 square feet, with a combined footprint of no more that 100,000 square feet and a combined gross floor area of no more than 155,000 square feet, officials said.

A maximum of 40 apartments would be permitted in the mixed-use development, which would include commercial and residential uses.

A stipulation from an earlier settlement proposal requiring a certain percentage of the homes be kept affordable has been removed, officials said.

To date, the court has made no decision on the case, and the Town Board has made no formal decision on the settlement or the application.

“This proposed settlement preserves a huge portion of the property in the back and leaves it on the tax rolls,” Mr. Walter said this week.

But Rex Farr, president of the Greater Calverton Civic Association, said his civic members believe the town should continue with the litigation.

“Our position from day one is that the town should continue to fight the lawsuit,” Mr. Farr said. “Until the challenge is followed through, you never know what will happen. It’s frustrating as a community when the Town Board chooses not to defend its zoning.”

“Whenever we can settle costly litigation, it’s probably good thing,” said Councilman Jim Wooten, adding that the Town Board last discussed the Calverton Manor settlement a long time ago.

“I don’t want to see Route 58 encroaching west, but this proposal has some retail, offices and was not as intense a development as it previously could have been,” he said. “Plus the land in the back would donated to town for open space. It’s a give and take.”

The Town Board will have to sign off on the terms of the settlement before the application can go back to the Planning Board for approval, Mr. Walter said.

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