The board had been poised to vote Tuesday on issuing the clearing and excavation permits for developer Kenn Barra's Knightland project, which proposes a new shopping center with 32,518 square feet of retail and a nearly 5,000-square-foot restaurant at the corner of Sound Avenue and Route 25A in Wading River.
"We got a stay from the appellate court in Brooklyn that prevents the town board from approving the land clearing permit for Knightland until a four-judge panel decides as to whether or not there going to give us extended injunctive relief in the form of a restraining order, until they make a decision on the standing issue," Dominique Mendez of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition said.
Currently, a lawsuit commenced by the RNPC is still before the courts, regarding the approved site plan for the project.
"For many years, developers have been getting just about anything and everything they desire and Riverhead officials have appeared to be complicit," Mendez said. "We're now looking to the courts to put the community ahead of special interests, and this is a small step in that direction."
At Tuesday's town board meeting, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said no vote would be taken and the resolution tabled regarding the excavation and clearing, due to the temporary injunction, and until the a determination was made regarding the preliminary injunction.
"All we’re trying to do is to ensure that this critically located piece of land is not developed in a way that negatively impacts the community at large by trying to ensure that all laws are followed," Mendez said. "Town officials are supposed to represent the public’s best interest, not just developers' interest, so it should be in the town board's best interest to have the court weigh in on this matter. If the land is cleared now, it could prevent the courts from hearing the case."
She added, "A month-long delay in clearing shouldn’t make or break Mr. Barra but bulldozing all those trees is not easily reversed and thus, the community has much more to lose if this project goes forward prematurely, before the courts have ruled on the case."
In 2011, the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition filed a lawsuit against the Town of Riverhead after the planning board approved Barra's proposal.
The suit argued that the planning board lacked the authority to approve the project because the proposal didn't conform to current zoning laws. The suit also stated that the planning board must consider Knightland in relation to nearby projects in Wading River and the effect it might have on the neighborhood.
Town Attorney Robert Kozakiewicz and Peter Danowski, Barra's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.