06/14/13 1:48pm
06/14/2013 1:48 PM
Calverton EPCAL sign

MICHAEL WHITE FILE PHOTO | One of two signs marking the EPCAL entrance along Route 25.

Riverhead Town’s plans for developing the Enterprise Park at Calverton took a few steps forward this week, and are expected take a few more steps forward next week.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of the former Grumman property now called the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of the former Grumman property now called the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL

The Town Board on Friday unanimously approved a “home rule message” resolution in support of a revised version of a bill in Albany that would allow development projects to be “fast-tracked” at EPCAL.

And Supervisor Sean Walter said officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation are not objecting to the town’s request to be the “lead agency” in the review of a proposed 50-lot subdivision the former Grumman plant property.

Town officials and the DEC have frequently disagreed over development approaches at EPCAL in the past, and who should hold lead agency status, which carries the most weight among all government agencies involved in permitting and approvals.

A “scoping hearing,” at which speakers can suggest issues to be examined in the environmental impact study of the subdivision, is tentatively planned for July 16.

“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,” Mr. Walter said in voting for the home rule resolution Friday in Town Hall. “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.”

Council members credited Mr. Walter, who has made many trips to Albany to lobby for the bill.

The town also had George Hochbrueckner, a former congressman and state assemblyman, working on the case this year to get both the EPCAL legislation and the EPCAL subdivision approved.

Mr. Hochbrueckner was the congressman who sponsored the bill that saw the U.S. Navy give the land to Riverhead Town for economic development to replace the jobs that were lost when Grumman, which tested fighter jets at the site, closed up shop in the early 1990s.

“I started this in 1993 and I’m glad it’s finally settled in 2013,” Mr. Hochbrueckner said Friday.

The bill has undergone numerous revisions over the past two weeks until language acceptable to all parties was agreed upon this week, Mr. Walter said.

There are currently identical versions of the revised bill in the State senate and Assembly.

The revisions eliminate the original bill’s plan to create a commission made up of town, state and county representatives and instead leaves the approval process entirely within the Riverhead Town Board’s control.

The proposal would call for a generic environmental impact study of all development at EPCAL to be completed upfront with input from town, state and county agencies, and then subsequent development applications that conform with that overall plan would not need to do separate environmental studies, thus cutting the review time needed for the project.

It’s similar to a plan the town enacted for downtown Riverhead under the Cardinale administration, although that plan relied on Apollo Real Estate Advisors to complete the upfront study, whereas in this instance, the town has already begun the study under a contract with VHB Engineering, which also is creating the subdivision map for EPCAL.

The bill was on the floor of the full Senate for a vote on Wednesday but was set aside so that the changes could be made to the language.

The Assembly also made those same changes to the bill on Thursday, according to Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who is sponsoring the bill along with state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Mr. Thiele, whose district covers the South Fork, has been acting as a sort of “defacto” North Fork assemblyman since the North Fork position was vacated earlier this year when Dan Losquadro resigned to become Brookhaven Town highway superintendent.

The bill must still be voted out of the local government committees in both houses and then be approved in a vote before the full houses of the Senate and Assembly by Thursday, June 20, which is the last day of the current session of the state Legislature.

tgannon@timesreview.com

02/19/11 2:16pm
02/19/2011 2:16 PM
Fred Theile, mobile homeowners

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Theile addresses mobile home owners in a packed Riverhead Town Hall Saturday.

At least 150 people, most of them mobile home owners, packed Riverhead Town Hall Saturday morning for a meeting to discuss a bill in the state Legislature that would limit “unjustifiable” rent increases in mobile home parks.

The bill, sponsored by assemblymen Fred Thiele (R-Sag Harbor) and Dan LoSquadro (R-Shoreham) and state Senator Ken Lavalle (R-Port Jefferson), comes at a time when residents of MacLeod’s, River Haven and Lakewood mobile home parks, in January received noticed that their monthly rents would increase by $49.75 on May 1, while residents of what used to be known as Thurm’s Estates, a mobile home park in Calverton, were notified Jan. 1 that their rent would increase by $50 per month, according to Joe Kummer, the president of the Mobile/Manufactured Home Owners Association of Suffolk.

Thurm’s Estates was sold by its prior owner, listed as MHC THurms, LLC, to a Chicago-based company using the name Hometown Thurms Estates on Dec. 28 for $10.8 million. The park will now be called Hometown America.

The prior owner, who had it for three years, “kept raising the rent and putting no money back into the park,” said Mr. Kummer, who lives there. “In the three years that they had it, my rent went up $218 [per month]. The first year that they bought the property, they raised the rent twice in one year.”

Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle attended that group’s meeting Saturday to discuss the proposed law and to get feedback from mobile home owners.

The proposed bill dealing with unjustified rent increases passed in the state Assembly two years ago but didn’t pass in the state Senate, Mr. Thiele said after the meeting.

Mobile home owners own their homes, but they rent the land on which it sits, which makes them vulnerable to rent hikes, Mr. Thiele explained. “Right now, if they increase your rent by 100 percent, you have no remedy but to pick up and leave,” he said, adding that since the number of mobile home parks is limited and most towns aren’t permitting new parks, moving the home often isn’t feasible.

“All the power is with the park owner,” he said.

The proposed law would give mobile home owners the right to challenge a rent increase in court if that increase is greater than the Consumer Price Index in New York State and if the mobile home is the person’s primary residence. The challenge must be taken within 90 days of the notice of increase and park owners have the right to make increases that reflect operating costs, taxes and debt service on capital improvements, Mr. Thiele said.

If one person in a park successfully challenges an increase, all the residence of that park benefit, according to the proposal.

Mr. Kummer suggested the increase be limited to three percent.

Pauline Sandmann, a resident of MacLeod’s and the president of that park’s civic group, read a letter from park owner Myron MacLeod regarding the increases at the three parks he owns.

“I am aware of the strong reaction to our January rent announcement,” Mr. MacLeod wrote. “That goes into effect this May 1 . It’s clear I underestimated the negative impact this would have on residents. We have been making extensive capital improvements in the communities over the last three years and I made the assumption that residents would understand the higher increase after such costs.”

Mr. MacLeod went on to write that his company invested about $1.7 million in the parks since 2006. He said the company considered giving residents a one-time bill to cover that work, instead of building the cost into the rent, but that would have cost each resident about $3,000.

“We thought it would be far less burdensome and easier to bear if the cost was spread over time,” the letter read.

In response, residents at Saturday’s meeting insisted that once the capital improvements are paid off, their rents should go back down again.

“Will he stop this $50 after the repairs are done or will we pay $50 for the rest of our life?” one man asked.

A woman who lived in a park in Bohemia told Mr. Thiele Saturday that thanks to recent increases, her mobile home park rent is now $771 per month while her state pension is only $700 per month. “Where do I go from here?” she asked.

Another woman who said she lived in MacLeod’s said “the next thing is I’m going to be living in my car.”

Senator Lavalle said the mobile home legislation takes on greater importance because of the difficult economic times.

“In times of economic stress, you don’t walk on people’s backs when they are down,” Mr. LaValle said.

He said the Legislature will be working to pass a budget by April 1, but promised mobile home owners he would “push as hard as I can to get this bill through the Senate.”

tgannon@timesreview.com