Members of the Suffolk County Planning Commission toured the Calverton Enterprise Park last Thursday morning to see some of the land they will have to make recommendations on when they someday review the Riverhead Resorts and Rechler Equity Partners projects.
“It was important for the planning commission to come and get a sense of place, so that when projects come up and we’re looking at future development, we have a sense of how it all fits together,” said Dave Calone, commission chair.
“We wanted to get a sense first hand of what’s going on here,” he continued. “The industrial core has been developed and there’s more coming. How this property is developed will have a significant impact on our county and our region.”
The tour, led by Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and community development director Chris Kempner, showed commission members the sites Riverhead Resorts and the Rechler group hope to develop, the property where a rail spur is slated for restoration (see sidebar) and the location of the old Calverton sewer plant. The group also toured Island International, a company that makes prefabricated buildings and employs about 160.
“You are, in my opinion, in one of the most exciting places in Suffolk County right now,” Mr. Walter told the group.
While the town’s efforts to develop EPCAL have been stalled in the past by environmental issues, Mr. Walter assured the group last Wednesday, that “we are going to protect the environment, because I know and you know, we cannot develop this property without protecting wildlife.”
Riverhead Resorts is planning to build eight theme resorts on 755 acres it’s seeking to buy from the town for $108 million. That development would require tearing up the 10,000-foot runway at the EPCAL property, formerly the site of a Naval weapons plant and Grumman aircraft assembly facility. That runway is no longer used for aviation.
“Riverhead Resorts is 98 percent certain they are going to have the money to close the deal this year,” Mr. Walter said, reiterating what the Resorts team has been saying since January. “We on the Town Board are probably a little less certain, but it’s a $108 million purchase price. That, in and of itself, is an economic engine.”
Mitch Pally, an attorney for Riverhead Resorts, said in an interview Friday that the developers are committed to finalizing the deal with the town this year.
“We’re in the final throws of putting all the financing together and we hope to have announcements shortly,” Mr. Pally said.
The town must first subdivide the property prior to the sale, Mr. Walter said, adding that this process is already underway. And while Riverhead Resorts has proposed an indoor ski mountain and eight theme resorts, the supervisor said the final project will be largely dictated by the environment study and what that says can or cannon be built on the site.
Rechler’s project is located on the east side of the property, just north of the active 7,000-foot runway. The developers are proposing to build a hi-tech industrial park on 300 acres, for which they would pay $18 million.
Rechler is reportedly seeking to change some of the uses it is proposing for the site, but that could not be confirmed, and has not come before the Town Board yet.
A spokesman for Rechler was asked by the News-Review about the possible changes a month ago and so far, he said he’s been unable to get any information from the Rechlers.
Mr. Walter said Rechler has collected about two years worth of wildlife data on the EPCAL site.
According to its website, the Town of Riverhead’s goal for the Calverton Enterprise Park “is the stimulation of manufacturing, industrial and high technology uses in order to replace or surpass the number of jobs and the tax revenues that were realized during operations at the site from 1954 to 1996,” when Grumman was active there as a tenant of the Navy.