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Agreement in place to preserve and relocate historic Norton House to former Second Street firehouse property

The Richard A. Norton House will be relocated to the former Second Street firehouse property under a tentative agreement reached with property owner Bob Castaldi, who also owns The Suffolk Theater, the Riverhead Town Board announced.

The historic house would be preserved and relocated to the property, between Roanoke and East avenues, where the North Fork Brewing Company and Montauk Distilling Co. currently operate. Relocating the house was a condition set in order to pave the way for a four-story, 36-unit market rate apartment building at 331 E. Main St., where the house is currently located. The Town Board granted special permit and preliminary site plan approval for the apartment project in August, but at the time, no specific location had been secured for the Norton house.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said during Thursday morning’s work session that she and Ann Marie Prudenti, the deputy town attorney, met with Mr. Castaldi Wednesday at the former firehouse property, which fronts both Second and Third streets.

Mr. Castaldi requested an expedited site plan approval so the house could get moved and for waiving of building permits due to concerns about an increase in taxes. She said that has to be addressed with the assessor’s office. He also requested some assurance that if he expanded on the firehouse property, the Norton House would not count toward the floor area ratio.

She said Mr. Castaldi would be taking on a cost of between $200,000 and $300,000 to fix one side of the building that needs to be rebuilt.

“It’s a way to save the historic house and I think the entire board feels that’s important,” Ms. Giglio said. “It’s a house that was built in 1855 and we have someone that’s willing to take it.”

The site plan at 331 E. Main St. requires the applicant — G2D Development of Huntington — “to provide a maximum of $70,000 to assist in funding the efforts to relocate the structure,” according to a Planning Department memo. Chris Kent, the attorney for the applicant, said via a Zoom call that they don’t want the relocation to hold up the demolition permits or building permits. An existing building on the property would be demolished.

“We have to work out the details of how we make our contribution and to who we make the contribution toward the relocation of the house,” Mr. Kent said. “Those details need to be ironed out.”

Ms. Prudenti said Mr. Castaldi would be responsible for the restoration of the building and he would allow use of the property for the town to host art events, such as small music performances or poetry readings.

“He would allow it to be part of a walking tour of historic structures within the Town of Riverhead,” she said. “We, the town, can make it part of our preservation efforts.”

Mr. Castaldi had previously taken on preservation efforts with the Suffolk Theater and Second Street firehouse. Ms. Prudenti said that Mr. Castaldi has a “keen interest in preserving historic structures in the Town of Riverhead” along with Long Island Aquarium co-founder Joe Petrocelli, who was responsible for the preservation of the Howell and Preston houses.

The town’s landmark preservation commission has identified the house as a “significant historic structure” that is “well worth preservation.” The Norton house is one of the three oldest buildings downtown, according to LPC chairman Richard Wines.

The application for 331 E. Main St. has not yet received final site plan approval and the applicants are seeking that to be done by Oct. 6, which is the next Town Board meeting date.

Ms. Prudenti said the developer has stated “time is of the essence” to maintain their timeline

Ms. Giglio said they are trying to coordinate with Verizon and Cablevision to raise wires so the house can be moved.

“It’s a great thing that this house is going to be able to be saved,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said.

Richard Norton, for whom the house is named, was a blacksmith who specialized in “fashioning the iron work for the numerous vessels built in the nearby shipyards during the second half of the 19th century,” according to a Planning Board staff report on the project. The house “provides a connection to a mostly-forgotten part of Riverhead’s history.” The building to the rear of the property was estimated to be built in the 1940s and has less historic or architectural interest.

Councilwoman Catherine Kent added: “I love the work that’s been done. … I hope that as time goes on we are able to restore more and more of the historic structures in the downtown area because we have a lot of beautiful homes.”