Head of the Harbor Village trustee Judy Ogden speaks at a 2022...

Head of the Harbor Village trustee Judy Ogden speaks at a 2022 news conference opposing development of the property known as Flowerfield Fairgrounds. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Head of the Harbor Village and several residents can't join an ongoing lawsuit over a St. James property known as Flowerfield Fairgrounds, a Suffolk County judge has ruled.

The village's board of trustees voted in April 2022 to join the lawsuit filed by the Saint  James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and residents seeking to limit development of the 63-acre site. The suit challenges a vote by the Town of Smithtown's Planning Board that gave landowner Gyrodyne LLC, a former defense contractor, approval to subdivide the property into eight lots for uses like medical offices, an assisted living facility and a hotel. 

Opponents said they want to protect the property's undeveloped 43 acres from future building. Gyrodyne attorneys had filed motions to dismiss the suit, arguing the residents and the village “lack standing” to maintain it, according to court documents.

Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge Maureen T. Liccione on Feb. 6 struck down the village's vote, citing a conflict of interest involving trustee Judy Ogden, who is president of the coalition and a resident named as a plaintiff in the suit. Since Ogden was found to have “individual standing and will benefit personally should this challenge be successful,” the judge said Ogden should have recused herself from voting. 

"Nobody talked to me about it and it never occurred to me," Ogden said in an interview Tuesday. "Nothing like that was brought to my attention."

The judge ruled that several other residents couldn't sue because they don't live close enough to the site to claim hardship from the proposed development.

The court found that other residents named as plaintiffs, as well as the coalition, had enough grounds to proceed with the suit.

Ogden said she still feels the litigation is in "good standing" because of the number of plaintiffs involved, and that the village's removal would not impact the proceedings or the coalition's case.

"The judge didn't say 'None of this makes sense, let's get rid of it.' She just said, 'Yeah, these are valid concerns, let's keep moving forward with this,' " Ogden said.

Matthew V. Jakubowski, Smithtown Town attorney, reiterated the town’s stance that the village’s decision to sue “was improper." 

Nicole Garguilo, spokeswoman for Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, said Tuesday the town will not comment until a final court decision is made.

Joseph Bollhofer, co-founder of the coalition, said the recent ruling is “good news” since it allows the suit to advance.

Village Mayor Doug Dahlgard said the suit supports the village’s interests in protecting the area.

“My main interest and the village’s main interest is that the character of the area doesn’t change, and that would be possible if there’s less development than projected by Gyrodyne,” Dahlgard said. “And that would happen if the state or the county participates in buying some of that property and leaving it as open space.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has expressed interest in acquiring some of the property for conservation. As the litigation proceeds, Ogden says she hopes Gyrodyne sees "incentive for them to look at other options (for the property) and consider them seriously." 

Gyrodyne officials did not immediately return requests for comment. 

The DEC issued a statement that said the agency is not involved in the litigation and has no comment on the ruling.

The DEC "continues to explore the possibility of state acquisition of the Gyrodyne property," according to the statement.

Fight over Flowerfield Fairgrounds

  • A Suffolk judge has dropped Head of the Harbor Village and several area residents from a lawsuit against Smithtown and former defense contractor Gyrodyne LLC over the future of a 63-acre site in St. James.
  • The plaintiffs are suing to try to annul a 2022 Smithtown Planning Board decision to approve the subdivision of Flowerfield Fairgrounds into eight lots for uses like medical offices, an assisted living facility and a hotel.
  • The court will allow the lawsuit to continue with several residents and a neighborhood civic group that were found to have enough grounds to proceed.
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