Not so fast … Calverton agri-park back in court

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Workers hang the sign outside the new Grapes & Greens facility in Calverton.

The recent Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals decision allowing an agricultural processing and storage facility in the former Blackman Plumbing warehouse on Sound Avenue in Calverton is being challenged in court … again.

Austin Warner Jr., who owns property near the site, filed a lawsuit against the Riverhead ZBA, John King, J. King Food Service Professionals and Sound Realty Co. seeking to overturn the June 14 ZBA decision upholding a building permit issued to Mr. King, who is planning an agricultural processing and wine storage facility on the site.

It was Mr. Warner who filed a lawsuit earlier this year challenging the town building department’s decision to give a building permit to Mr. King, which resulted in the matter going to the ZBA for an interpretation.

The judge in that case, which is still listed as being active, put off making a decision until the ZBA made its ruling.

The new lawsuit claims the ZBA failed to supply any supporting documentation to support its verdict, failed to require health department approval for the project, and allowed false information stating that the property was owned by “John King J. King Realty.”

In addition, the lawsuit alleged the ZBA violated the state open meetings law when it went into executive session prior to its vote on the application.

The lawsuit also claims the use is not permitted in the Agricultural Protection Zone, where the site is located. And it claimed that the “agricultural processing and warehouse” use violates the conditions of a prior use variance for the property, which limited the property use to “warehousing and storage of industrial supplies.”

Finally, Mr. Warner’s lawsuit claims the decision was made in violation of the state environmental quality review act (SEQRA), which says that a non-residential application in a municipality with less than 150,000 people, for a facility with more than 100,000 square-foot gross floor area, is what is known as a “type-one action” and requires an environmental impact study.

Riverhead Town’s population is listed as 33,506 in the 2010 Census, and the Blackman building is 108,000 square foot, the lawsuit says.

Town building inspector Sharon Klos said at the ZBA hearing that she granted the permit because she felt the uses Mr. King proposed for the site are within the scope of a warehouse, and she said the history of the building clearly shows that the warehouse use has not been discontinued.

William Duffy, the deputy town attorney who represented the ZBA on this case because the ZBA’s regular attorney, Scott DeSimone, recused himself due to a conflict, told ZBA members that in his opinion, the proposed use didn’t meet the town’s definition of agricultural production. He said he feels it does meet the definition of warehouse, the use currently permitted by prior ZBA rulings, and that the other uses sought by Mr. King qualified as permitted accessories to a warehouse.

Mr. King hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility last week in which New York State Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy was present.

He said the facility, which is being called “Grapes & Greens,” will be used to store North Fork wine, locally caught fish and farm produce, as well as to cool, package and ship products it buys outright from local farmers to extend their life and increase their value on the market.

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