No Town Board support for adding housing and retail to Rechler plan

06/17/2010 12:00 AM |

There doesn’t seem to be any support on the Riverhead Town Board for Rechler Equity Partners’ proposal to add housing and retail to its proposed industrial park at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.
“I think he has a heavy lift to get this mixed use proposal past the Town Board,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.
Rechler is under contract with the town to buy 300 acres of land at EPCAL for $18 million. The company originally went to contract in 2007 to buy that same land for $35 million, but later convinced the Town Board to lower the price to $18 million in 2009, citing the economic downturn.
Rechler was seeking to build a $2.7 million high-tech industrial park on the 300 acres, where the town created a new light industrial zone several years ago. They planned to phase in the development over 10 years.
But Rechler recently asked board members for changes in permitted uses to allow for more than 900 apartments and retail uses mixed in with light industrial uses.
Such a change would require that the town change the permitted uses in the light industrial zone, and some officials say they also may need to issue a new request for proposals since different uses are being considered, and those uses potentially could bring in a higher sales price.
Rechler was chosen through a request for proposals that ended up with three companies in a bidding war to buy the land back in 2007.
Supervisor Walter, Councilman George Gabrielsen, Councilman Jim Wooten, and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio all said in interviews that they oppose allowing housing, while Councilman John Dunleavy said he’s not opposed to a mixed use that includes housing at the site, but he is opposed to allowing that much housing.
“I don’t think that the housing fits into the vision in the re-use plan for Grumman,” Mr. Walter said. “That was supposed to be industrial jobs. I think the problem is that this sort of mixed use will make it more difficult for industrial uses that we may want to put at Grumman.”
Mr. Walter said he’s “not a fan” of retail at EPCAL.
Ms. Giglio also felt that housing at EPCAL would lead to potential conflicts with aviation uses there. But she said she would support retail along Route 25 if it also included an IMAX theater.
She said the land at EPCAL was given to the town for industrial development to replace the jobs lost when the Grumman Corporation left in the mid-1990s.
“Great idea, wrong location,” Mr. Gabrielsen said of the mixed use proposal. “I’m totally against it. That was never the intent of EPCAL.”
Mr. Wooten also said EPCAL was supposed to be a regional economic stimulater that would create jobs, industry and tax base.
“Mixed use is a big buzz word and it’s what they’re doing all over Long Island, but mixed use in EPCAL?” he said. “That’s not what the property is supposed to be for.”
Mr. Walter said he doesn’t think the town could issue a new request for proposals for the site while it is still under contract with Rechler Equity Partners.
Mr. Gabrielsen, who opposed dropping the price to $18 million, said he would prefer that Rechler just left and ended its contract with the town, so the town could seek other buyers for the land.
Gregg Rechler was asked by the News-Review several weeks ago about potential changes to the EPCAL site as he was leaving a Town Board executive session where the changes were discussed.
He said only that they were seeking different uses to make the project more attractive in light of the economy, but he would not say what those changes were.
Rechler Equity Partners also has a lease with Suffolk County to develop an industrial park at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton.
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