Reversing a lower court decision, the State Supreme Court Appellate Division has upheld the decision by Brookhaven Town officials to block a big-box store from opening on the site of the former Rocky Point Drive-In theater on Route 25A.
The court's decision, reached last Wednesday, was the latest in a decadelong court battle between the town and the property's New Jersey-based owner, Lerner-Heidenberg Properties, town officials said.
Linda Margolin, an Islandia attorney who represents Lerner-Heidenberg, said her client plans to appeal. "We're disappointed in the ruling," she said.
The town attempted to change the zoning of the property from retail to recreational in 2000, after which Lerner-Heidenberg brought an application for a Lowe's Home Improvement center, town officials said. The developer sued for the right to build the store, which tied up the zoning change in court.
"The Rocky Point Drive-In has remained blighted for so many years because of the owner's ongoing and ultimately meritless litigation, but maybe now it will be put to good use," said town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, who represents the area.
Lerner-Heidenberg's original lawsuit claimed Brookhaven intentionally delayed voting on the plan while the town rezoned the property, an attorney for the developer had said.
A four-judge appellate panel found last week that town officials did not show "undue delay and bad faith" in changing the property's zoning, nor did they "selectively" enforce zoning laws.
The court's ruling "vindicated" the town, said Maureen Liccione, a partner in the Garden City law firm Jaspan Schlesinger LLP, which served as outside counsel to Brookhaven.