Court rules for town and developer in townhouse project lawsuits

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By Dan Sears

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Two State Supreme Court rulings have rejected challenges to a Fort Salonga townhouse project and upheld the Town of Huntington’s approval of the development. 

A group called the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association and some local residents filed two Article 78 lawsuits in August claiming that the Huntington Planning Board and the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals acted improperly in approving the project from Hauppauge-based Northwind Group to develop townhouses on a portion of the Indian Hills Country Club property. 

The lawsuit against the ZBA alleged that “an unqualified alternate” board member cast the tie-breaking vote in Dec. 2022 to approve the condo project. The lawsuit against the Planning Board claimed that the board failed to hold a “duly noticed public hearing” prior to granting conditional final approval to the project and that it also failed to comply with the state’s environmental review obligations. 

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But in the decisions filed Wednesday, Acting State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Farneti ruled that the plaintiffs petition was brought “long after the Planning Board’s decision-making process had concluded and the time to commence any legal challenge had expired.” 

In the lawsuit challenging the ZBA, Farneti ruled that the participation of the alternate board member in the vote to approve the development was “lawful and in compliance with town code.” 

An attorney at the Huntington-based law firm Huth Reynolds, which represented the plaintiffs, declined comment, but added that they planned to appeal certain aspects of the decision. 

First pitched more than seven years ago, Northwind Group recently began construction on the over-55 age-restricted development that will bring 74 townhouses to a portion of the Indian Hills Country Club.  

The townhomes, called the Preserve at Indian Hills, were built under a cluster provision in the town’s single-family zoning code to allow for maximum preservation of open space by clustering homes. The project preserves the 130-acre, 18-hole golf course and the country club will continue to operate.   

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The 2,700-square-foot townhomes range in price from $1.25 million to $1.8 million and will have three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms. Pre-construction sales began on the project a few months ago and the development’s first phase of 38 homes is more than half sold, according to the developer. Though the project will have 74 townhouses, Northwind can eventually build an additional 12 units. The plans also call for the construction of a new 26,000-square-foot clubhouse to be used by residents and members of the country club. 

“We are happy that we can now proceed to build an extraordinary golf community and clubhouse,” said Jim Tsunis, a Northwind prinicpal. “We want to thank the members of Indian Hills for their continued patience as we start construction on new clubhouse sometime in 2024.” 

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