Developer Vincent DiCanio, a principal in Calverton Manor LLC, pitches his plans for an assisted living facility at the Calverton Civic Association meeting June 12, 2019. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Smithtown developer Vincent DiCanio presented a revised proposal for a 22,000-square-foot assisted living facility on the corner of Manor Road and Middle Country Road to the Greater Calverton Civic Association last night.

The site is currently split-zoned Rural Corridor (the approximately 11 acres fronting Route 25) and Agricultural Protection Zone (the approximately 17.8 acres north of the acreage within the Rural Corridor district.)

DiCanio’s proposed plan would require the town board to change the zoning of 11 acres in the Rural Corridor zoning use district to the Retirement Community zoning use district and then grant a special permit for the development of an assisted-living retirement community.

DiCanio said the facility would have a total of 135 units. He said he does not yet have a contract with a firm to operate the facility and had a number of firms interested. One of them is Concordia, which has an application pending to build an assisted living facility and retirement community rental apartments on Mill Road, just north of the Riverhead Centre shopping plaza.

Concordia principal Ronald DeVito in September pitched the 135-unit plan to the town board. He was accompanied by Calverton Manor attorney John Wagner.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio at that meeting stated her support for the plan. “Besides downtown I think this is the perfect location,” she said.

Councilmen James Wooten and Tim Hubbard also expressed support. Councilwoman Catherine Kent said she agreed there is a need for affordable assisted living in Riverhead but expressed concern about the building height. “I’m not crazy about three stories,” Kent said.

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith suggested the developers present their plans to the Calverton and Wading River civic associations, which led to last night’s presentation.

DiCanio last night asked the civic to support his proposal but did not get the group’s endorsement. Members present, in an informal show-of-hands vote, said there are too many unanswered questions about the impacts of the proposal for them to either lend their support or express opposition to it.

Civic members had questions about traffic impacts and sought more detailed information about the operation of the facility.

Janice Scherer of Baiting Hollow said she objected to the idea of green land being developed with a use that requires a change of zone when there are other properties appropriately zoned that can be repurposed for assisted living projects. She also noted that the site is not within a sewer district and questioned how it could meet town zoning and health department requirements.

Litigation over zoning spans 15 years

DiCanio, a member of the company that owns the site, said there is still pending litigation against the town in connection with the zoning that would be settled if the town agrees to the new plan.

Calverton Manor LLC owned 41 acres of vacant land — a 35.5 acre lot and a 6.2-acre lot — on the northwest corner of Manor Road and Middle Country Road and had a commercial site plan application pending when the town board adopted new zoning in 2004 and 2005, implementing the 2003 comprehensive plan. Before the re-zoning the site had been zoned Business C-Rural, Agriculture A and Residence A. The Business C-Rural zone allowed the development of “campus style” commercial uses.

In four separate lawsuits, the property owner challenged the validity of the master plan and the zoning ordinances. The trial court upheld the town zoning and the appellate division in April 18 affirmed three of the lower court’s decisions — upholding the master plan and the re-zoning of the site. But the court annulled a 2005 town board resolution implementing the transfer of development rights program. The court ruled that the town failed to give proper notice of the measure to the Suffolk County Planning Commission as required by state law. The town has since re-adopted the TDR legislation to correct the error.

While both the trial court and the appellate court upheld the master plan and the adoption of the APZ and Rural Corridor zoning codes, neither court ruled on the plaintiff’s claim of the town’s bad faith. The appellate court did not decide the question of whether town officials intentionally delayed review of a site plan application completed two months before the adoption of the master plan in November 2003. The court noted that the record on this question contains “inconsistencies.”

The lawsuit remains on the trial court’s conference calendar. It is not clear what the remedy would be if the court finds that the town acted in bad faith in adopting the new zoning, as the property owner contends.

DiCanio said last night he did not understand the details of it and did not have his attorney present.

Town officials were poised to settle the actions in 2012 in an agreement that would have reinstated the pre-master plan zoning and granted the developer the right to build a “campus style” retail shopping center and 40 rental apartments — and also dispense with full-blown environmental review. The pending settlement was first reported by RiverheadLOCAL on Jan. 20, 2012. The settlement thereafter stalled.

In July 2014, the trial court denied the developer’s motions for summary judgment and upheld the master plan and zoning codes. The developer appealed.

As that appeal was pending, DiCanio in 2016 first pitched a new plan for the site: a 135-unit senior/assisted living residential facility.

Meanwhile Calverton Manor in February gained approval of a three-lot minor subdivision, creating the 11-acre lot in the RLC zone, and two lots in the APZ zone, one 6.7 acres and the other 17.8 acres. Lavender by the Bay of East Marion, whose co-owner last year said was in contract to buy 30 acres from Calverton Manor — the separate 6.2-acre tax lot and two of the three lots created by the minor subdivision. All are zoned APZ.

In 2015, Calverton Manor sold the development rights of the 6.2-acre lot and the 17.8-lot to the developer of a condominium project on Middle Road.

Lavender by the Bay has already planted some of that acreage with lavender and gained site plan approval from the planning board for a farm stand and parking on the site.

DiCanio said last night Calverton Manor would pursue commercial development of the 11-acre site if the assisted living plan doesn’t fly.

The Rural Corridor zoning use district allows for very limited commercial development as of right: agricultural production, antique stores, craft stores, nurseries, museums and libraries. Special permit uses are limited to professional offices, country inns and funeral homes — if within 1/4 mile of Hamlet Center of Village Center zoning use districts — bistros, cafes, bed-and-breakfast establishments, professional offices of attorneys, architects, medical doctors or dentists on property improved with a single-family dwelling when the zoning was adopted.

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