08/22/14 7:00am
08/22/2014 7:00 AM

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 4.14.39 PMOver the past decade, Riverhead Town leaders in current and previous administrations have dipped into financial reserves to balance town budgets. Those funds have now run out and hard decisions have to be made in order to close a looming gap of $4 million — nearly 10 percent of the town’s general fund — next year.

Borrowing against future land sales at the Enterprise Park at Calverton — a bridge loan as it’s been called — may seem an easy way out. But the risks are great and it should be avoided. The town is already unable to meet its debt obligations on one gamble it made on future revenues: the Community Preservation Fund. It must learn from its mistakes. The idea is to pay back the bridge loan after two to three years using anticipated proceeds from selling town land at EPCAL. Aside from having to pay interest, the town’s history of selling land there speaks for itself: The last sale was 11 years ago.

Until now, Supervisor Sean Walter has candidly and unabashedly touted an all-or-nothing approach in advocating for the bridge loan: Sell the land and he’ll save taxpayers from a looming, double-digit tax increase. But if land isn’t sold, town residents face a tax increase that could be twice that much — or more over time, should the town keep taking out loans.

From a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, nothing about Mr. Walter’s plan seems conservative.

But it’s the sheer lack of creativity evidenced so far in discussions about reducing the budget gap that has been most disappointing.

Up to now, no Town Board member has proposed any detailed, out-of-the-box ideas that would plug the hole — whether by cutting, consolidating or finding new revenue sources. Considering they all approved this year’s budget, the blame lies with them just as much as with Mr. Walter.

Finding a common ground between a tax increase, cuts and limited borrowing will likely be what’s best in the end. And until the Town Board finalizes this year’s budget, nothing should be off the table.

How about 3 percent (or even 2 or 1.5 percent) cuts across all town departments? Or furloughs? What would the town’s services (and pocketbook) look like if it folded its dispatching, or even its water district or police department, into the larger Suffolk County entities? Are there any permits the town can extend to two years instead of one? Can fees be increased? Surely, with these questions and so many others as a start, that $4 million deficit can be reduced.

08/21/14 6:00am
08/21/2014 6:00 AM
A plan for about 2,300 town-owned acres at Enterprise Park at Calverton was recently submitted to Town Board members. (Credit: Andrew Lepre)

A plan for about 2,300 town-owned acres at Enterprise Park at Calverton was recently submitted to Town Board members. (Credit: Andrew Lepre)

To the editor:

Are Sean Walter and the rest of the Riverhead Town Board playing Riverhead’s version of Netflix’s “House of Cards” in their new willingness to permit residential development in the EPCAL area(more…)

08/19/14 7:00pm
08/19/2014 7:00 PM

With Councilman Jim Wooten absent and representing the swing vote, the Riverhead Town Board at its meeting Tuesday night held off on voting on resolutions that authorized a $6 million bridge loan to reduce taxes in the 2015 budget, as well as resolution to set a public hearing on a proposal to pierce the state’s two-percent tax cap with the 2015 budget. Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman George Gabrielsen said they support authorizing the loan, which must be repaid in two years, on the hope that the town can sell some land at EPCAL.

Councilman John Dunleavy and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio opposed it.

(more…)

08/18/14 8:00am
08/18/2014 8:00 AM
(Credit: Tim Gannon)

(Credit: Tim Gannon)

Hundreds of planes, jets and helicopters converged on the western runway at the Enterprise Park at Calverton Saturday and then flew around the area for most of the day.

All of them weighed less than 50 pounds.

Saturday was “National Model Aviation Day” and Edgewood Flyers of Deer Park celebrated by having a model aviation “fly-in” at EPCAL.   (more…)

08/13/14 12:00pm
08/13/2014 12:00 PM
A proposed plan at Enterprise Park at Calverton calls for mixed use to house employees servicing other industries, eventually holding 300 residential units on site.

A proposed plan at Enterprise Park at Calverton calls for mixed use to house employees servicing other industries, eventually holding 300 residential units on site. (Click to enlarge)

A $600,000 study of the 2,300-acre Enterprise Park at Calverton was delivered to Town Hall last week, calling for the municipally owned land — gifted to the town for economic development in the late 1990s and largely untapped since — to be split into 50 lots for open space, as well as residential, retail, industrial and business uses.  (more…)

08/06/14 2:04pm
08/06/2014 2:04 PM

EPCAL_signRiverhead Town is now one step closer to being able to sell individual lots at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The town has received a draft environmental impact study for its EPCAL reuse plan — a plan that seeks to subdivide the former Navy site into 50 lots and recommends a mix of business, residential and light industrial uses on about 600 acres of town-owned land.

The reuse plan is an attempt to replace the jobs that were lost when Grumman Corporation vacated the site in the mid-1990s.

The town paid nearly $450,000 for the study in 2011, and earlier this year approved over $160,000 in additional expenses attributed largely to negotiations with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Town Board plans to hold a special meeting at 10 a.m. tomorrow to schedule a Sept. 3 public hearing at 7 p.m. on the DEIS, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

He expects the study to become finalized by the end of the year and for the 50-lot industrial subdivision the town is proposing at EPCAL to be approved by the town Planning Board shortly after.

The town cannot sell individual lots at EPCAL until they are formally subdivided. It also will need state Department of Environmental Conservation approval for its EPCAL reuse plan, since part of it is located within the boundaries of the state’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, which places restrictions on development near the Peconic River, Mr. Walter said.

07/11/14 7:00am
07/11/2014 7:00 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town's planned bike path would run south from Route 25 along Line Road (above) before reaching an area near River Road.

Line Road (above) at EPCAL became a subject for debate during a bike path discussion at Town Hall. (Credit, Tim Gannon, file)

A discussion at Town Hall last week about a proposed nine-mile bike loop at Enterprise Park at Calverton showed that, at least for the moment, it will remain incomplete. That’s probably a good thing. Here’s why:  (more…)