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

After a 17-year legal battle, the remaining two of four separate lawsuits brought by a Smithtown developer challenging Riverhead’s 2003 comprehensive plan and the zoning the town adopted to implement it, has been discontinued.

Calverton Manor and the Town of Riverhead have signed stipulations of discontinuance of both remaining actions, which were marked disposed by the court yesterday.

The developer’s attorney told the court at the last status conference that his client did not want to pursue the case any longer, Riverhead Town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz said in a phone interview this afternoon.

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 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 subsequently 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 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 contained “inconsistencies.”

The lawsuit was remanded to the trial court for a ruling on the bad faith issue.

“We were still pushing forward,” Kozakiewicz said today. He said the town was ready to begin taking depositions in preparation for a trial of the facts, “to make the case that this was not a special facts case and that there was no undue delay,” he said.

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, Calverton Manor principal Vincent DeCanio in 2016 pitched a new plan for the site: a 135-unit senior/assisted living residential facility.

Calverton Manor subsequently gained approval of a three-lot minor subdivision of its 35.5-acre parcel, creating an 11-acre lot in the Rural Corridor Zone on Middle Country Road, and two lots in the Agricultural Preservation Zone.

Calverton Manor sold development rights on 24 acres to the developer of a condominium plan on Middle Road in Riverhead. It sold 30 acres (including the land that had been stripped of its development rights), to Lavender by the Bay of East Marion, which is operating a lavender farm there. It retained the 11- acre site in the RLC zone.

Since June 2020, the town was represented in the actions by Philip Siegel of Siegel & Sitler in Hauppauge.

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