The Suffolk Theatre is one small step closer to reopening. The Town Board authorized the supervisor to sign a stipulation of settlement with Suffolk Theatre owner  Pike Realty. The stipulation clears the way for the issuance of building permits and the resumption of renovations on the 1930s-era art deco movie theater, which Pike Realty wants to convert to a performing arts center and cabaret/dinner theater. Pike Realty purchased the vacant theater from the town for $707,000 in 2005, but the project stalled and, after the master developer agreement was signed with Apollo, derailed completely, leading to a lawsuit against the town by the theater owner.

A move by Town Board members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen to eliminate two probationary employees was defeated by a three member majority of the board. The two council members said they were trying to reduce the town’s payroll by eliminating the positions. But in separate 3-2 votes, both resolutions terminating the probationary employees were defeated. Supervisor Walter and board members James Wooten and John Dunleavy said the positions, a site plan reviewer in the planning department and a deputy financial administrator in the finance department were both necessary positions.

The town’s bid to open  ballfields and new recreational facilities at the Calverton Enterprise Park was struck a potential blow this month when an appellate court overturned a lower court decision ruling that the Pine Barrens Commission lacked jurisdiction over the recreational development at the EPCAL site.

The Town Board is fighting back. The board has hired the Riverhead law firm of Smith, Finkelstein, Lundberg, Isler and Yakaboski to try to reargue the case or seek an appeal.

In 2008, State Supreme Court Justice Paul Baisley granted Riverhead a declaratory judgment, ruling that the state Pine Barrens Commission lacked jurisdiction over recreational developments at EPCAL. The state Pine Barrens Protection Act of 1993,which created the Pine Barrens Commission, exempted all projects that constitute “economic development” inside the fence at EPCAL from the commission’s jurisdiction.  When the commission began talking about exerting jurisdiction over the planned town park and other recreational uses at EPCAL, the town brought suit, asking the court to decide the issue. This month, a panel of the Appellate Division ruled that the suit was brought prematurely, because the Pine Barrens Commission had not yet actually asserted jurisdiction or denied any permits; therefore, the court reasoned, Riverhead was not “aggrieved” and could not bring an action.

Check Riverheadlocal tonight for video of March 16 Town Board meeting.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.