Riverhead could lose some control at EPCAL to Pine Barrens Commission

Riverhead Town may be on the verge of losing some control over development at the Enterprise Park at Calverton to the state Pine Barrens Commission, but a proposed settlement of a lawsuit the town filed on that matter may at least give the town the ability to overrule decisions by the commission.
A state appellate court in March threw out an earlier state supreme court ruling that development at EPCAL was exempt from the jurisdiction of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission.
The appellate judges said the matter is not eligible for review because the function of the courts is to determine controversies between two litigants, not to give advisory opinions.
Subsequent to that, the appellate court in May denied the town’s request to reargue that case.
Supervisor Sean Walter said he has instructed the town’s outside legal counsel to prepare an appeal of that ruling to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, but in the meantime, he proposed a settlement to the Pine Barrens commission on Wednesday.
The commission is comprised of the supervisors of the towns of Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven, as well as a representative from Suffolk County and from New York State.
Mr. Walter is hoping the proposed settlement has the support of the three town supervisors.
“The supervisors seem to be voting as a block, which is a good thing,” he said.
In the proposed settlement, “We would refer matters to the Pine Barrens Commission for a consistency determination, in other words, does it meet the 35 percent clearing standards?” Mr. Walter said Thursday.
The Pine Barrens law requires that no more than 35 percent of a site within its jurisdiction be cleared. The town’s zoning at EPCAL is consistent with that standard.
“And once it meets it, that’s it,” Mr. Walter said. “They can only say it meets it or it doesn’t meet it.
“If they say it doesn’t and we felt it does, we could overrule them, much the same way it works with the Suffolk County Planning Commission.”
The Suffolk County Planning Commission gives rulings on some town development applications, but the the Town Board can override those rulings  with a super-majority vote of the Town Board, meaning four of five members  have to override it.
Mr. Walter is proposing a similar process for the Pine Barrens commission.
The proposed settlement would require all development applications at EPCAL be sent to the commission for a consistency ruling.
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