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Huntington senior housing development lawsuit thrown out

Architectural rendering by Robert M. Swedroe Architects and

Architectural rendering by Robert M. Swedroe Architects and Planning company show the front and rear views of a four-unit building designed for the Seasons at Elwood, a 360- unit senior housing development proposed for the site of the Oak Tree Dairy on Elwood Road, Huntington. Credit: Robert M. Swedroe Architectural

A lawsuit filed against Huntington town officials by residents upset over a zoning change that allowed plans for a controversial senior housing development in East Northport has been dismissed by a state Supreme Court judge.

In a decision handed down late last month, Judge Joseph C. Pastoressa said the petitioners’ claims in the suit about the Seasons at Elwood were either without merit or failed to be proven.

“Although the proposed development will increase the density of the neighborhood, it also will preserve a sizable portion of the property as open land, provide senior housing, and provide a number of affordable units,” the decision says. “Thus, the determination to rezone the subject property was in compliance with the overall policies outlined in the comprehensive plan.”

The suit was filed in September 2014 in state Supreme Court in Riverhead on behalf of Lauri Holt of Huntington, and Lee and Ann Itzler, Richard Apollonia, Vincent Modica, David Prestipino and Ronald Starrantino, all of East Northport, with a goal to nullify the town’s approval of the project, an age-restricted housing development of 256 homes on a 37.05-acre site in East Northport.

“We were very disappointed in the decision, obviously,” said Elwood-based lawyer Wendi L. Herman, who represented the petitioners, in an email. “We have not decided yet what our next step will be. An appeal is certainly possible.”

The defendants were the town, its board and planning board; developer BK Elwood LLC and the Oak Tree Dairy Farm Inc., which owned the site of the planned 256-unit community for people 55 and older.

Town spokesman A.J. Carter said that town officials are “pleased that the judge has affirmed the lengthy, deliberative process, including considerable public input, that led to the approval of the rezoning for The Seasons at Elwood.”

He added that the project is now in the site plan approval process and that town officials “look forward to construction of a development that will serve our senior population and provide tax benefits for the entire community.”

Steven Krieger, a principal with The Engel Burman Group, the proposed developer of the Seasons, said he was pleased with the court’s decision.

The suit had alleged that when the town rezoned the land to allow for the Seasons, it broke from its outline for what should be done with the land. In the town’s comprehensive plan published in 2008, Herman said Huntington called for the site to be developed for low-density residential use.

The lawsuit also alleged the defendants failed to prepare a full environmental impact statement and failed to consider “significant adverse environmental impacts,” including a soil management plan.

The suit also alleged that because the dairy had ceased operation, it should have reverted to zoning for single-family homes.

“With all due respect to the judge, we feel that there were areas that he failed to examine — certain negative environmental consequences — in any depth whatsoever,” Herman said in her email.

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