Update: State Legislature approves EPCAL fast track bill

06/20/2013 2:59 PM |
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Calverton Enterprise Park, looking south.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Calverton Enterprise Park, looking south.

UPDATE:

The New York State Senate approved a bill today designed to fast-track development proposals at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The bill was approved in the Assembly in the morning and in the Senate this afternoon.

“We’re firing on all eight cylinders now,” Supervisor Sean Walter said of the approvals. “The marketability of that property has increased 10,000-fold with this vote today. There should be nobody ever comparing this to the vacancies in Hauppauge or Melville, because nobody else in New York State has what we have now.”

The bill, which still needs to be signed by the governor, establishes a generic environmental impact study, or GEIS, at the outset, to cover all possible development proposals that meets a re-use plan agreed upon by the town, county and state.

Any fully engineered development proposal for within the area covered by the study will be guaranteed approval within 90 days of the application being filed.

If an application isn’t approved in that time frame, it will receive a default approval, Mr. Walter said.

“This is the single biggest piece of economic development legislation for Long Island, probably ever,” he said.

The state also passed a law that gives tax exemptions to businesses associated with hi-tech research projects at SUNY campuses, Mr. Walter said.

The 50-acre Stony Brook Business Incubator at EPCAL would fall under that bill, he said.

The town still needs to complete the GEIS , the new zoning and land use plans, and the subdivision at EPCAL before the fast-track proposal can take effect, the supervisor said.

That process, which has already begun, is expected to take about a year to compete.

Today was the last day of the current session for both houses of the state Legislature, which next meets in January.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Riverhead Town’s plan to fast track development at the Enterprise Park at Calverton is going right down to the wire, with the state Assembly slated to vote on the measure today, Thursday, the last day of the current legislative session in Albany.

The state bill would establish the EPCAL Reuse and Revitalization Area, 2,124 acres for which Riverhead Town would develop an overall generic environmental impact study (GEIS) outlining what can and can’t be built there.

“This is probably one of the most monumental pieces of legislation that will hit the East End and, in my opinion, all of New York state,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said Friday. “What this does is, it gives the town a mechanism to have approval of projects at EPCAL in 90 days, and it is going to put EPCAL on the map in a way that nobody else in New York State is on the map.

“It’s been a long time coming,” the supervisor added.

Under the proposal, if a development application is submitted within this area, and its impacts have already been studied by the GEIS, that project would require no further environmental studies and would receive approval within 90 days of submission, provided the application was deemed complete by the town.

Normally, each individual development application would potentially need to conduct a separate environmental study.

Similar legislation passed in the state Senate last year but never made it out of committee in the Assembly. As written at that time, the bill would have created a commission comprising the five Town Board members and one representative each from the state and county. The current version of the bill gives full authority to the Town Board, eliminating the need for a new commission.

As of Wednesday, the revised bill had been moved out of the Senate’s local government committee and was listed on the Senate’s agenda of bills to be voted on Wednesday afternoon, according to Drew Biondo, an aide to state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), the bill’s sponsor in the Senate.

But it was uncertain if the bill would be voted on by the full Senate on Wednesday or Thursday. (See riverheadnewsreview.com for updates.)

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), the bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, said he expected it to be voted on Thursday by the full Assembly.

Officials say they expect the bill to be approved in both houses.

The Town Board on Tuesday also declared itself as the lead agency in the review of its EPCAL reuse plans, which include amending the town master plan and zoning and creating a new 50-lot industrial subdivision at EPCAL.

This vote came after the state Department of Environmental Conservation raised no objection to the town’s taking the lead in the review of those plans.

“This is an amazing thing we’re about to undertake,” Mr. Walter said Tuesday, as the Town Board prepared to vote on the lead agency status.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said Wednesday she thinks this is the most important legislation the town has adopted in more than 10 years.

The board also voted to schedule a public scoping hearing on the draft GEIS for July 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

A scoping hearing allows people to suggest issues they feel should be studied in the GEIS.

On Friday, the Town Board also approved a home rule message, which indicates the board’s local support for the state proposal and was needed before the state Legislature could vote on the measure.

Board members gave Mr. Walter credit for his work on the bill, as he had made numerous trips to Albany to lobby for its passage over the past two years.

The board got the idea after taking a bus trip, complete with media members, to Devens, Mass., in January 2011. That community had worked with officials within the Commonwealth to redevelop a former military base.

The EPCAL property had been owned by the U.S. Navy and was used by the Grumman Corporation to built and test fighter jets until 1996. The land was given to the town in 1998 for economic development purposes to replace the jobs lost when Grumman shut down.

tgannon@timesreview.com

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