Food and produce processing company J. Kings has filed a lawsuit against the Riverhead Town Board and Planning Board, accusing the town of illegally stalling its application for a hard cider mill at its facility in Calverton.
The suit names the Riverhead Town Board, the Riverhead Planning Board, the individual members of both boards, as well as both the Riverhead town attorney and former assistant town attorney as defendants.
The lawsuit demands the Planning Board immediately reach a decision on the proposed cidery and tasting room, which would be built at the Grapes & Greens location on Sound Avenue. J. Kings has also asked for monetary compensation for “respondents-defendants’ failure to timely issue a determination upon J. Kings’ site plan application.”
In the lawsuit, J. Kings said the Planning Board is legally required to make a decision 62 days after holding a public hearing on the plan.
The Planning Board held a hearing on April 2, where neighbors said they feared the cider mill would create a “nightclub” atmosphere.
“We’re going to be inundated with litter in the area, and with people urinating on the sides of the roads after they leave there, drinking all the hard cider,” said resident William Sproston at the hearing. “This is going to have an adverse effect on the community.”
The board has not yet announced a decision on whether to approve a plan for the site.
The lawsuit also alleges that Riverhead Town officials “acted in bad faith and with malice when they engaged in a 19 month campaign to delay J. Kings’ site plan application,” accusing the Town Board of adopting new farm stand regulations on Oct. 6 that the company believes “specifically targets” J. Kings’s proposal.
The company says in the suit that the legislation is vague and “effectively prohibits J. Kings from utilizing the property in a way that was previously allowed under the old zoning provisions. It is illegal, and must be annulled, on that basis.”
J. Kings demands that if the court decides J. Kings’ cider mill would fall under this new code, the company’s site plan should be reviewed using the town code prior to the farm stand law.
Neither J. Kings’ attorney Bryan Lewis, nor Riverhead town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz, could be immediately reached for comment Saturday.
Photo caption: Workers hang the sign outside the Grapes & Greens facility in Calverton before it opened in 2012. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)