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Supreme Court justice rules ZBA decision based on ‘substantial evidence,’ upholds use permit issued by Riverhead Town.

The J. Kings use permit stands.

A court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Austin Warner to block the establishment of a produce processing facility at the former Blackman Plumbing site on Sound Avenue.

Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Arlen Spinner threw out the action on Feb. 6, upholding a June 2012 Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals decision that sustained a building department use permit issued for the site.

“There has been no proof submitted by Petitioner which supports a conclusion that the Board acted in an illegal, arbitrary and capricious manner or abused its discretion,” Spinner wrote. The ZBA decision was “supported by substantial evidence” gathered at a hearing of nearly two hours in length, at which the testimony of 15 witnesses was heard, the judge ruled. Among them were the building department’s permit coordinator, Sharon Klos, who testified as to her reasons for issuing the permit.

Controversy erupted over whether the town code should be interpreted to include processing, packaging and storage of produce under “agricultural production for commercial use.”

The ZBA decision actually found the proposed use by J. King Food Service accessory to the principal warehouse use of the site under a use variance issued in 2000.

The 7.3-acre site, improved by a 108,000-square-foot warehouse, last summer. It was used as a warehouse by Blackman Plumbing from the late 1970s until a few years ago. Prior to that it was a potato chip factory built and operated by the Warner family.

The L.I. Farm Bureau obtained a $500,000 state economic development grant to establish an agricultural enterprise zone at the location and plans to make “micro-grants” to local growers to help them lease storage space in the warehouse, dubbed “Grapes and Greens.”

The farm bureau, in partnership with J. King and the Peconic Land Trust, last week announced that subsidized leases are now available to local growers.

A meeting for growers interested in learning more about the Grapes and Greens facility will be on Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. at Cornell Cooperative Extension, 423 Griffing Avenue, Riverhead. For more information regarding the Feb. 27 meeting, or with questions about the facility, growers can contact Kim Quarty or Dan Heston at the Peconic Land Trust at 631-283-3195.

Photo caption: John King, second from left, discusses his planned use of the former Blackman warehouse at an open house he hosted there last June.  

RiverheadLOCAL file photo by Denise Civiletti

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