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Melius: I need more time to talk to neighbors about condo project

Developers want to build 90 condominiums on the

Developers want to build 90 condominiums on the Oheka Castle property in Huntington. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius said he requested an adjournment of a public hearing on revoking covenants and restrictions on castle property and a neighboring parcel because he wants to speak again with neighbors about his latest condo project proposal.

Melius on Wednesday said he needed additional time to meet with the Cold Spring Hills Civic Association, which has expressed concerns about a plan to build 90 condominiums in a four-story stone building with parking underneath on the lower portion of the castle’s front lawn.

"I’m going to meet with the civic and explain everything; nothing's really going to change," Melius said. "There’s nothing for them to be concerned."

He said the main issues are the waste management system and traffic flow along West and East Gate drives.

The Huntington Town Board voted 4-1 on Tuesday to postpone the hearing until Oct. 20. Councilwoman Joan Cergol recused herself from the vote because of a prior working relationship with Melius and at the castle.

Michael Archbold, vice chairman of the civic association, said most residents support Oheka Castle, but as a whole they have no opinion on the development plan.

"The association representing the community has not yet had a chance to meet and vote and gain a consensus on it," Archbold said.

Melius said he’s not sure yet if he will develop the property himself or get someone else to do it.

Plans in 2012 for a 190-unit senior community was proposed for part of the Oheka property and a parcel owned by the Cold Spring Hills Country Club. The Cold Spring Hills Civic Association supported that proposal because it would preserve the golf course, but that plan fell through.

In order for the new plan to proceed, the covenants and restrictions, which preserve a golf course and addresses traffic signals and a future sewer system, need to be removed.

The covenants and restrictions were placed on the parcels in 2012 as part of the Residence-Open Space Cluster District, which was designed to preserve open space in the town while also allowing development. The castle is also included in the town’s historic building overlay district, which allows the town board to consider uses for historic buildings other than what's allowed under current zoning.

Melius and his land use attorney Michael McCarthy met with the association in a virtual meeting on Sept. 3 where the proposal was presented.

After that meeting the association shared its thoughts on the proposal with Melius and McCarthy and sent a letter dated Sept. 12 to the town outlining concerns and requests, including enacting covenants and restrictions to prohibit any further development of the castle property; a smaller version of the project be considered; clarification on any requirements for affordable housing; sewage hookup to the Nassau County Sewer District; and that the Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department agree to construct an annex closer to the Cold Spring Hills community.

Any obstruction of the castle would be minimal, McCarthy said.

"The grade elevation is such that the view of the castle would not be blocked," he said.

Huntington-based Kahn Property Owner LLC, the entity that owns the castle, submitted the new application to the town earlier this year. Melius and the castle address are listed as the person and location to send documents, according to the New York State Department of State Division of Corporations.

Melius said the castle is still in receivership, but he retains control of the castle’s day-to-day operations.

"I do everything," Melius said.

A request for comment was not returned from the receiver, Jeffrey Kolessar, vice president of development at GF Management of Philadelphia, a company that runs hotels nationwide.

A receiver is a neutral party appointed by a court to manage business operations.

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