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EPCAL ‘action plan’ will be announced today

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Michael Reilly Design Inc. makes custom windows and doors out of the 100,000-square-foot facility at EPCAL. The building has the original air control tower used by Grumman.

Town and state officials will announce at a press event today in Riverhead “new initiatives and a new action plan” that will consist of studies to help redevelop the town’s languishing Enterprise Park at Calverton, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

A centerpiece of the plan will be the hiring of Vanasse, Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB), a land planning firm, to update several key studies pertaining to the enterprise park property referred to commonly as EPCAL. The Town Board is expected to formally vote on hiring that firm at the Tuesday, Feb. 1 Town Board meeting, Mr. Walter said.

The move comes in the wake of the collapse of both of the multi-million dollar land sales the town had been negotiating for EPCAL, which consists of 2,900 acres of former U.S. Navy property, over the past few years.

“We’re back to square one. We’ve got to do it right,” Councilman George Gabrielsen said in an interview.

State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), newly elected Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham), Town Board members, civic and environmental group representatives and representatives of VHB are expected to be present at the 2 p.m. press conference outside Riverhead Town Hall.

The supervisor wouldn’t release the cumulative cost of the studies, but had mentioned a figure between $300,000 and $500,000, though he said that cost “includes everything from soup to nuts.”

That would include an update of the reuse plan for EPCAL, an update of the EPCAL zoning, a supplemental environmental impact study that would include a comprehensive wildlife study of the EPCAL property, the completion of the subdivision of the land the town intends to sell at EPCAL from the rest of the town-owned land there, and a marketing analysis of the property, to determine what types of businesses are interested in locating there.

The marketing analysis would probably be done by another company, rather than by VHB, the supervisor said, but that cost still falls under the $300,000 to $500,000 figure he gave for the total cost of the initiative. The studies are expected to take about two years, according to Mr. Walter.

Not included in the scope of work VHB will do is work pertaining to Mr. Walter’s goal of having the state create a separate permitting agency for development at EPCAL. Although he’s referred to it as an “authority” in the past, he said Friday, “we’re not talking about having the state run it, we’re just looking to create a permitting agency. We’ll run it.”

That permitting agency would be modeled after the one created in Devens, Mass., where four members of the Town Board recently visited. In Devens, redevelopment of a former military base there is governed by a state-appointed board comprised of representatives of the state government and of the three small towns that the land is located within. Mr. Walter said he’d like to see perhaps a seven-member board, with three town representatives, two county reps and two state reps. The town, county and state would all have input in developing the development criteria for EPCAL, and projects that meet that criteria would be approved within 75 days.

The idea of the permitting agency is still in its early stages, but appears to have the support of a majority of board members.

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