Two Town Board members walk out on Riverhead Resorts presentation

10/13/2010 6:17 PM |


VERA CHINESE PHOTO Riverhead Resorts president John Niven traveled from Scotland to attend a Town Board work session Wednesday. Councilmen George Gabrielsen and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio (right), who have voted to end the group's contract with the town, walked out of the meeting in anger.


Representatives from Riverhead Resorts, the group seeking to purchase 755 town-owned acres in Calverton, promised town officials Wednesday that on Nov. 3 they will have $3.9 million of the nearly $6 million the developers owe the town.

The representatives flew from Europe to make the promise in person, but they only fully relayed it to two Riverhead Town Board members, as councilpersons Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen, who have voted repeatedly to end the contract, walked out in anger at the meeting’s start. The sales contract between the town and the Resorts group was supposed to have been finalized May 15.

Councilman Jim Wooten was absent.

EDITORIAL: RESORTS MONEY NOT WORTH THE RISK

Mr. Gabrielsen and Ms. Giglio asked Riverhead Resorts president John Niven and Michael Simmonds, head of Solutio Finance, the company vowing to provide an initial funding package of $25 million for the project, if they were ready to write a check for the late payments that day. The men said they were not.

“I do not see a check,” Ms. Giglio said. “I think this is just another, I hate to say it, dog and pony show.”

“When you do have the money, give me a call,” Mr. Gabrielsen said before walking out.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy apologized on behalf of Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen to Mr. Niven and Mr. Simmonds, who had traveled from Scotland and England respectively to attend Wednesday’s meeting.

Councilman John Dunleavy said he remained optimistic about the project since no other suitors have come forward.

“I have no doubt in my mind that you want to move forward,” he said. “We have nobody else out there.”

Morton Weber, whose law firm Weber Law Group is representing Riverhead Resorts, said another $3.9 million in late payment would be made in January. He noted the time frame for when the deal is finalized will be determined in part by when the town is able to subdivide the land, a necessary step before closing.

During the meeting, Mr. Walter requested documentation verifying that the lender had promised to finance the full amount of the project. Mr. Weber said it would be impossible due to confidentiality reasons.

“This document cannot be divulged,” he said. “This is an agreement between a lender and a borrower.”

Mr. Simmonds told Mr. Walter that on a scale of one to 10, the chances of the town having the check in-hand on Nov. 3 was a nine.

And if Riverhead Resorts does not have the $3.9 million Nov. 3?

“It’s over. It’s really over,” Mr. Walter said.

The supervisor had previously said he would end the contract but reversed course in Town Hall last Tuesday when a vote came up to do so; he was the deciding vote on tabling the measure.

The Riverhead Resorts group is planning to build a multi-themed resorts complex bigger than Disneyland at the Enteprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL, land that was owned for decades by the U.S. Navy before it was deeded to Riverhead Town in the mid-1990s.

The Resorts group and the town have informally agreed on a lower, $108 million purchase price for the land, down from the original $155 million agreement made before the real estate market collapsed. Resorts officials had argued that declining real estate values warranted the lower price.

The Town Board had previously given Riverhead Resorts until last month to come up with the then-$3.9 million it owed or face having the contract terminated, but it missed that deadline and as per the sales contract, and now owes almost $6 million.

vchinese@timesreview.com

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