A Jamesport civic organization has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Riverhead Town Board’s April 3 special permit to allow Jul-Bet Enterprises to have two bistros and two professional offices in the proposed Village at Jamesport development.
Save Main Road — an unincorparated association consisting of more than 250 nearby residents and business owners, according to court documents — seeks to overturn the special permit approval on the grounds that the applicant, Jul-Bet Enterprises, doesn’t represent the property’s owners. The association also argues the review of the application is “segmented,” in violation of state law, and doesn’t take into account plans for the entire site.
In addition, the lawsuit says the environmental impact study for the project doesn’t take the required “hard look” at the impacts of increasing the number of bistros allowed.
The lawsuit was no surprise.
Larry Simms, the legal liaison for the group and South Jamesport homeowner, announced the potential lawsuit at a July 5 Planning Board hearing.
“Jul-Bet Enterprises LLC is not entitled to a special use permit because it is not the owner of the property,” the lawsuit says. “It has provided no evidence of authorization from the owner of the property and substantial evidence suggests that Jul-Bet lacks the authority to pursue development of the property.”
While the property owner was listed as Jul-Bet Enterprises when the application was first filed about eight years ago, in 2007 ownership transferred to Jamesport Development LLC, who’s ownership is comprised 50 percent of Jul-Bet Enterprises and 25 percent each of RBR Equities and SW Consulting.
The latter two companies are currently in court suing to have Jamesport Development dissolved on the grounds that it failed to live up to the financial arrangements it was formed to pursue through development of the Jamesport land.
Jamesport Development also is currently facing foreclosure proceedings on the property. And the 40 acres to the north of the site, which is owned by Jamesport Development, has been seized by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s department on behalf of creditors and is scheduled to be auctioned off on Sept. 11.
Jul-Bet Enterprises is owned by Julius Klein, according to court papers. Mr. Klein owns Dollar Storage in Calverton, which also has been seized by the Sheriffs and is being put up for auction.
Save Main Road says in its lawsuit that Town Board members were unaware of the change in ownership until after their vote on the special permit.
“Not only does this demonstrate the failure of Jul-Bet to disclose pertinent facts, it also indicates a clear error of the law on the part of the Town Board,” the lawsuit says. “Ownership of the parcel, or the owners’s authorization and consent is a prerequisite under the Riverhead Town Code. In addition, New York case law clearly indicates that a special use permit may not be issued to an applicant that lacks legal authority to develop the property and that permits issued to such applicants will be overturned.”
Charles Cuddy, the attorney on the Village at Jamesport application, addressed this issue at the July 19 Planning Board meeting.
“I think there’s a lot of things that have been said that are just factually untrue,” he said. “One of the things that’s often been said is that Jul-Bet Enterprises, which is Mr. Klein’s firm, does not own the site. He does own the site. He’s a 50 percent owner and he’s an applicant and he’s certainly entitled to make that application. The application was made with the consent of his other partners. There should be no question that he is an owner, is going to be an owner, and is going to get this project finished.”
The lawsuit also states that the town illegally segmented the review of the project when it said in its findings statement for the special permit that its environmental impact review was “limited to the environmental impact of the specially permitted uses,” and that “review of the environmental impact of the entire proposed action known as ‘Village at Jamesport’ will be addressed by the Town of Riverhead Board which has jurisdiction over site plan applications.”
A findings statement indicates the environmental review of a project is complete and it can suggest measures that must be taken to address certain impacts. The Town Board adopted a separate findings statement for the special permit application, and then the Planning Board adopted a different one for the site plan application several weeks later. Both were based on the same study.
The lawsuit also claims that the environmental study of the project didn’t examine the impact of the bistros properly. The study examined two 4,000 square foot bistros, which is defined as an “eating establishment of 50 seats or less.” However, when the applicant and the Town Board agreed to shrink the size of each proposed bistro to 2,000 square feet, the overall total of 8,000 square feet of bistros remained unchanged in those town resolutions, the lawsuit states, saying that the environmental study didn’t examine this change, which would permit eight 2,000 square foot bistros, as written.
Mr. Cuddy has said the applicant only plans two 2,000 square foot bistros.
The studies also failed to examine the impact of the parking spaces the applicant has said he would build to serve the existing businesses along Main Street in Jamesport, the lawsuit states.
Village at Jamesport plans to submit a revised site plan application for the 10-acre site soon, according to Mr. Cuddy.
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said via text message that he could not comment on pending legislation. Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Town Board said it planned to discuss litigation on Village at Jamesport at an executive session after the board work session Thursday morning. Executive sessions are not open to the public.