At EPCAL, stakes too high for making wrong choices

06/24/2010 12:00 AM |

The Riverhead Town Board should be considering bold moves when it comes to the handling of two developers seeking to build at the former Northrop Grumman property off Route 25 in Calverton, commonly referred to as EPCAL.

When Riverhead Resorts first asked in March for an extension on the $1.9 million it owed Riverhead Town toward a land purchase at the site , it became painfully clear that the investors weren’t the sort of megadevelopers that could pull off a $1 billion project on a parcel larger than Disneyland. The group missed its second deadline on the payment of another $1.9 million and now owes $3.8 million. This deal was to have closed last December; each $1.9 million payment, however, up to a maximum of five, allows the group an additional three-month delay until the last such possible delay this Dec. 15.

The group’s lawyer, Mitch Pally, said last Tuesday that Riverhead Resorts hoped to have the money by later that week or early this week. Not surprisingly, there’s been no word on any money. The group has blamed delays in financing on the U.S. Patriot Act.

When something doesn’t seem right, it’s usually not. Such a sum should be no problem for willing and able investors. Instead of granting this group even more payment-due extensions to delay closing on the 755-acre, $108 million deal, the Town Board should consider the contract breached, terminate the deal and draft new requests for proposals from outfits with substantial track records and realistic ideas.

Yes, the town would lose out on two more nonrefundable $1.9 million payments toward the $108 million purchase, but that might be a blessing. As many people in town are doing right now, board members should be asking themselves: Is this really the type of organization we want to be owning 755 acres of our land? What more concessions will they need if they attempt to make this project a reality?

On the heels of the Riverhead Resorts group’s missing its deadlines, we learned the other developer on which Riverhead Town had pinned its hopes for bringing good-paying jobs to the area, Rechler Equity Partners, which is in contract to buy a separate 300-acre parcel at EPCAL, is now seeking to add housing and retail to its proposed hi-tech industrial park.

If he hasn’t already, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter should be planning a meeting with Gregg Rechler to ask one simple question: Will you build a light industrial park