Once again, the "Save Main Road" group is headed back to court regarding a project they fear will forever alter the character of their North Fork community.
The group has refiled its Article 78 suit against Riverhead Town for "improperly" awarding special use permits regarding the Village of Jamesport project, according to Save Main Road members.
The first suit was "dismissed on a technicality," by the New York State Supreme Court in January, according to Larry Simms, of the "Save Main Road" group. The first Article 78, which is an action to overturn the decision of a local government, was filed on Aug. 3.
Of the refiled suit, Simms said the action is focused on voiding the permits issued by the town after the board voted in favor of two controversial special use permits that would allow for bistros and professional offices at a proposed development, the Village at Jamesport.
Two special permit applications were submitted by Jul-Bet Enterprises in 2007 for the project, which would be sited across the street from Cliff's Elbow Room on Route 25 in Jamesport.
Special permits are necessary because current rural corridor zoning only allows for certain uses.
Simms said at the time that he found it "astonishing" that the Riverhead Town board moved forward with the vote, stating that the project would result in diminished traffic in the area and tax base benefits, referring to what Simms said were not accurate statistics. "Either the town board is not reading these things or they just don't care," he said.
The suit, Simms continued, seeks to highlight "gross errors in the town's approval process. Our original case was dismissed on a technicality. Though we’re confident we could appeal that decision and win, the process could take a year or more, and only then could we begin to deal with the critical issues at the heart of this case. Filing as a 'new' case is a procedural shortcut."
Simms that the option of refiling was possible because the the court did not rule on any of Save Main Road's claims, but dismissed the case merely for “lack of standing,” meaning the group hadn’t shown that they would be harmed by the special use permits decision “in a way different than the general public," he said.
In addition, Simms said the case was dismissed because the group did not initially identify any individuals that might be impacted by the project by name, even though Simms said the complaint explained that adjacent homeowners and businesses "would be directly and egatively impacted by the decision. We filed an affidavit to that effect; the court ignored this."
The bottom line, Simms said, is preserving the area's rural character and protecting businesses and residents that already live in the area.
"Our environment is our economy," Simms said. "If we despoil Main Road, our piece of the North Fork will stop being special. The more it looks like the rest of Long Island, the quicker agritourism will dry up. We’ll be twice-cursed: our economic engine will run out of gas, and we’ll drive down our once-pastoral roads and think we’re in Brookhaven."
Simms said the group is not against new development, but any new projects must conform to regulations designed to keep the rural corridor "from becoming a Route 58 extension."
In addition, the Save Main Road group has been working with the planning and architectural review boards. "We're encouraged," Simms said.
Finally, Simms announced that the Group for the East End has announced another challenge grant for Save Main Road.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said he could not comment on litigation. Riverhead Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz did not immediately returned a request for comment.
Do you agree with Save Main Road members that a proposed new project could threaten the current bucolic quality of Route 25? Or do you think the new project should get the green light? Share your thoughts in the comments section.