Judge rules in Riverhead’s favor in challenge to master plan

The land where the Calverton Manor project wanted to build just to the west  of Manor Lane on Route 25 in Calverton. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch photo)
The land where the Calverton Manor project wanted to build just to the west of Manor Lane on Route 25 in Calverton. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch photo)

A decade-old lawsuit challenging Riverhead Town’s 2003 master plan update, which Town Board members had considered settling two years ago, was decided in the town’s favor last week.  

Calverton Manor LLC, headed by developer Charles Mancini, first proposed in 2001 to build a 120,000 square foot “big box” shopping center on two parcels totaling 41.7 acres on the northwest corner of Route 25 and Manor Road in Calverton. He later amended the plan to call for a “campus style” development with several smaller buildings, including retail, restaurants and a bank.

But the town changed the zoning as part of the master plan update, and eliminated the possibility of using the land for retail, as proposed, which led to Calverton Manor filing a series of lawsuits in 2004 and 2005.

In a July 15 decision, State Supreme Court Justice William Rebolini wrote that the procedural issues Calverton Manor had challenged were “without merit” and that the “Town Board complied with the substantive requirements of SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) in that it identified the relevant areas of environmental concern with regard to the proposed comprehensive plan, took the relevant hard look at them and made a reasoned elaboration of the basis of its determination.”

Mr. Mancini said Friday that he plans to appeal the ruling, which applies to five separate lawsuits filed by Calverton Manor, each challenging different areas of the town zoning and master plan.

“There’s no question that this decision is appealable,” Mr. Mancini said.

Calverton Manor had changed its plan several times and at onepoint included land to be donated for a YMCA facility, as well as land proposed for Peconic Bay Medical Center facilities and housing. The proposed changes were presented as possible settlement offers to the lawsuits.

In 2012, the Town Board considered a possible settlement that would have allowed the property to be developed under the zoning that was in place before the master plan update.

That settlement would have confined all of the development onto 20 acres along Route 25, while preserving 14.8 acres in the rear that’s zoned agricultural protection zone.

It would have allowed for up 100,000 square feet of development spread out over five or six buildings, and up to 40 apartments, officials said at the time.

Supervisor Sean Walter had supported the settlement, claiming that if the town lost the lawsuit, its entire master plan and the zoning resulting from it would have been voided.

But members of the Greater Calverton Civic Association opposed the settlement, and the majority of the Town Board eventually dropped its support as well.

“What we’re very afraid of is an extension of Route 58 going west into Wading River along Route 25,” said association president Rex Farr in an interview Friday. He said his civic association and others in town spent a lot of time helping to develop the master plan update.

“I’m happy that the commercial district will not extend west of the LIE because it’s important to preserve our rural character,” said Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who opposed the settlement.

She said Mr. Mancini had contributed to her election campaign, but that “I didn’t let that stop me from making the right decision for the taxpayers.”

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