Suffolk Theatre lawsuit is all settled
Owner must get started soon renovating historic theater
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The Town Board voted unanimously to authorize Supervisor Sean Walter to sign that settlement Tuesday night, although it had not immediately been signed, said Tom Maimone, the attorney for theater owner Bob Castaldi.
"By adopting this resolution, this is settled," Mr. Walter said Tuesday. "This is another step for the renovation of downtown Riverhead."
"We lost a lot of time and a lot of money, but we're looking forward to getting back to work," Mr. Castaldi said. "We're starting from square one."
He said no work was done while the lawsuit was pending.
The agreement would call for Mr. Castaldi to proceed with a scaled-down renovation and would require that he obtain building permits by the August deadline, Mr. Maimone said. The suit would be formally terminated upon receipt of the permits, he said.
"The idea is to do the fastest way possible to get it open," Mr. Maimone told the News-Review.
Mr. Castaldi is planning to reopen the theater as a performing arts center and one-screen movie theater.
It had operated as a movie theater from 1933 to 1987.
Mr. Castaldi, whose Pike Realty company bought the 76-year-old theater from the town for $707,000 in February 2005, ended up suing Riverhead Town in October 2007, claiming the town, under then-Supervisor Phil Cardinale, deliberately stalled his efforts to renovate the theater because it wanted to give the property to Apollo Real Estate Advisors, which had proposed a large downtown project adjacent to the Suffolk Theatre.
The contract selling the building to Mr. Castaldi contained a reverter clause, saying that if the renovation wasn't substantially completed by three years after the date of the sale, the town could seek to take the theater back.
Mr. Castaldi, who is in the business of restoring historic buildings, never came close to finishing the work within three years, and the town subsequently went to court to try and get the theater back. Town officials at the time said the delays were due to the fact that Mr. Castaldi had changed the plan from what was originally proposed when he bought the property.
But the Town Board members who were elected in November and took office in January said they didn't want the theater back, and began working on a settlement of the lawsuit.
"We finally have the right people on the Town Board, who understand what is needed to assist business in going forward," Mr. Maimone said. "Sean Walter was instrumental in helping us arrive at this agreement. There's a new attitude of cooperation in the town."
Mr. Maimone said the settlement would give Mr. Maimone two years to complete the work.
The town acquired the theater in 1994 for $425,000 and issued a $1.2 million bond to cover the purchase and renovation of the structure. But numerous plans to restore it failed, and the building stayed off the tax rolls for 11 years.
"This is going to keep [another $83,000] on the tax rolls," Councilman John Dunleavy said at Tuesday's meeting.
In 2001, town voters rejected a $4 million bond to completely rehab the theater after Mr. Cardinale, a lawyer who was not in office at the time, and Sherry Patterson, a local realtor, launched a petition drive to force a public vote on the expenditure.
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