The Town of Huntington and Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius have been sued over the recent approval of luxury condos on the castle property, Long Island Business News reported Thursday.
Cold Spring Country Club and developer FBE Limited say in the Article 78 lawsuit that the town engaged in a “development scheme” to approve the condo plan for 95 condos that Melius wants to build. That action, the lawsuit says, came at the expense of the country club, which has its own plans for 175 condos on adjacent property.
“The suit contends that the town abused its authority by using its Historic Building Overlay District zoning in approving the Oheka plan and failed to conduct a proper environmental review of the proposed project.” LIBN reporter David Winzelberg wrote.
The Huntington Town Board voted 4-0, with Councilwoman Joan Cergol recusing herself, to approve Melius’s plan to build 95 units on the west side of East Gate Drive. The vote included the lifting of convenants and restrictions on the property.
Melius and the Cold Spring Country Club had at one time been partners in a plan to build a larger development, but split, with Melius deciding to pursue his own plan. The country club attempted to block Melius’s plan at a Town Board meeting earlier this year, with lawyers for both sides laying out their view of the legalities of overlay rule changes. A lawyer for the country club acknowledged at last month’s hearing that it was concerned that if Melius’s plan was approved, the club’s own plans might be rejected.
The suit claims that the town board should have required Oheka to perform a traffic study of the intersection of East Gate Drive and Jericho Turnpike, which the suit states had been cited by the town’s planning department and the Suffolk County Planning Commission as a condition for their potential recommendation of approval for the condo project.
The lawsuit also says that the project would require access to parts of East Gate Drive and a road spur that are owned by the club, which the club says it will not provide. Town Supervisor Ed Smyth said at the board meeting that if Melius couldn’t win access, he could apply for an alternative access plan.
An Article 78 filing is used to try to overnturn an unfavorable decision by a state or local agency.
Supporters of the Melius plan have said that it is vital for the financial wellbeing of the castle and Melius as owner. The property has been in receivership since 2019.
A town spokeswoman said, “The Town does not comment on current or pending litigation.”ohekasuit