Resolution In Sight For Long-Planned Calverton Project

Board agrees to compromise after years of litigation.

After years of waiting, a mixed use development project proposed for Calverton may finally get the green light to move forward.

On Thursday, the town board met with developer Charles Mancini and Hauppauge-based attorney John Wagner to discuss Calverton Manor, a project that has been on the back burner since a first application was made in 2001.

The current project plan consists of 40 residential units and stores, as well as open space.

According to Wagner, the application got stalled with the town's adoption of the comprehensive plan in 2003 and zoning for the master plan in 2004. The application had been filed in 2001, and, according to Wagner, his client was assured in a letter that rezoning of the agricultural areas surrounding the parcel, which is located on the northeasterly corner of Manor Lane and Route 25, across from Splish Splash in Calverton, would not affect the application. All site plan fees were paid, he added.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she would like to see copies of that letter, which Wagner said stated the project would be approved before the adoption of the comprehensive plan.

"In spite of the assurances we were given the application was put on the back burner -- and the heat was turned off," Wagner said.

Over the years, Wagner said, five lawsuits have been filed against Riverhead Town regarding the project.

But, Wagner said, he and Mancini agreed to sit down with the board in the hopes of coming to a compromise and reaching a settlement.

With a Dec. 5 court date looming, Mancini said, "We've been trying to settle this case in good faith for five years. If we don't settle prior to Dec. 5, I will instruct counsel that I want to go to trial."

The attorney said he believes there are "compelling facts. We believe we are entitled to build our project."

Wagner said he and his client were presenting a stipulation to the board. "In the nature of a settlement, nobody gets what they want entirely but they get something," he said.

To that end, the new project has been modified from utilizing 41.7 acres to 20.79 acres -- less than 50 percent of what was originally proposed.

The rest of the 50 percent of the parcel would be open space on the northerly portion of the parcel, a benefit to the town and community.

The total building footprint would be modified from 176,000 square feet to 98,900 square feet, a "substantial pullback in the interest of settling this," Wagner said.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the new plan was supported by the Long Island Builders Institute.

Mancini discussed other projects, including a mixed-use center his firm is developing in Manorville with Peconic Bay Medical Center, that are embraced by the community.

Wagner said the stipulation has very specific ceilings regarding maxiumum square footage, footprint, and maximum number of residential units. In addition, due to concenrs raised by the community that the project would be a "big box" project or strip mall, the redesign is now campus style, with clustered buildings and courtyards.

"There has been a lot of thought and effort going into this, in response to the town's concerns," he said.

Of the 40 residential units, four will be affordable, Mancini said.

Although Councilman Jim Wooten said he still had questions to discuss with legal counsel, Walter, along with Councilmen George Gabrielsen, John Dunleavy, and Giglio all said they were ready to move forward with the project.

Gabrielsen said he liked the idea that the project was cut in half, with open space to the north. Giglio said she is a proponent of property rights.

"I don't like stall tactics and delays to prevent development," she said. "Especially when there was no moratorium in place. I think it's fair to settle."

The board agreed to vote at Tuesday's town board meeting. Mancini said even if the proposal meets with town board approval, the plan still has to go before the planning board.

"It ain't over till it's over, as Yogi Berra said," he said.


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