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Hearing set on restrictions, covenants for The Residences at Oheka Castle

Gary Melius walking out of the doors to

Gary Melius walking out of the doors to Oheka Castle in Huntington on the afternoon of Aug. 6, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The Huntington Town Board has set a March 10 public hearing to consider amending the law governing covenants and restrictions for The Residences at Oheka Castle, a proposed senior housing development.

The board in March approved a one-year extension for developer and castle owner Gary Melius to file paperwork related to the project because he had been shot in the head on the Oheka Castle's grounds two weeks before the paperwork was due. The shooting remains under investigation.

Melius plans to build 190 condominiums on part of a 186.6-acre parcel that includes the historic castle and the Cold Spring Country Club in West Hills.

The covenants and restrictions cover issues such as responsibility for installing traffic signals, providing sewer hookups and the transfer of development rights.

When the town board approved a zoning change to allow The Residences at Oheka in March 2012, it was subject to the filing of covenants and restrictions associated with transferring development rights from the neighboring country club to Melius, town officials said.

"The original resolution granted a change of zone upon the filing of covenants and restrictions with the Suffolk County Clerk," town spokesman A.J. Carter said Friday. "The present resolution clarifies which conditions the applicant [Melius] is responsible for and which conditions are the responsibility of the country club."

Carter said the resolution also allows for an extension to file the covenants and restrictions, but the length of the extension is not clear.

The resolution to schedule the public hearing was approved at Wednesday's town board meeting by a vote of 4 to 1, with town board member Mark Cuthbertson voting no.

Before voting, Cuthbertson cited a town ethics board opinion from October that said he was not barred from weighing in on matters concerning Oheka Castle. The ethics opinion was solicited by the town board after a Newsday investigation found Cuthbertson voted for the zone change without disclosing that he was working with Melius and Melius' daughter Kelly on two court-appointed receiverships.

Cuthbertson said while he supports the application and the code that allowed it, he believes Melius and the country club have been given "adequate time to fulfill the conditions and simply do what's required in this instance, which is to file a set of covenant and restrictions that are on the site."

He added, "I get the sense that we have really become an instrument in the negotiations between these two entities, and the time has come to comply with the covenants and restrictions."

Melius said he respects Cuthbertson and that he's entitled to his opinion. He said being shot and recent media attention has put "everything in a different light for me," but that he plans to continue working to get the covenants and restrictions in place as soon as possible.

A call to Jim Margolin, the attorney representing the country club, was not immediately returned.

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