Planner speaks on housing at EPCAL at another public hearing

Members of the public at Thursday night's planning board hearing on a 50-lot subdivision at Enterprise Park at Calverton. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
Members of the public at Thursday night’s planning board hearing on a 50-lot subdivision at Enterprise Park at Calverton. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

A room full of people showed up to town hall on Wednesday night at a public hearing on a study regarding the future of Enterprise Park at Calverton, and they weren’t happy about language in it that pointed to 300 housing units — as well as retail uses — down the line.

Last night, one of the planners who helped write out the study — which explores subdividing the 2,400 town-owned acres into 50 separate lots, 42 of which could be sold by the town — explained where the idea came from.

Residential uses are included in the reuse plans for the EPCAL because it was suggested as a viable “supportive” use of industrial development in a 2011 marketing study, according to Kevin Walsh of VHB Planning and Engineering, the firm that did the draft environmental impact study.

His comments came at Thursday’s Planning Board meeting, where a public hearing was held on the reuse plan and the proposed 50-lot subdivision of the town’s land at EPCAL. Several speakers at last night’s meeting also opposed the proposal for a “mixed-use” development at EPCAL, which would include light industrial, commercial, retail and residential uses.

Mr. Walsh was asked about the residential uses proposed in EPCAL by Planning Board member Ed Densieski, who has publicly voiced his opposition to allowing residential uses at EPCAL.

“I kept hearing  (at the Town Board hearing) last night about 300 units being proposed,” Mr. Walsh responded to Mr. Densieski. “There’s nothing being proposed in this plan. To make a long story short, in order to complete an environmental impact statement, you have to have something to study. So in the absence of a finite proposed plan, because we’re not dealing with a developer here who is coming and proposing a specific plan, we have to create a scenario that fits within the proposed zoning and that’s justified by something, which was the market study.”

The “Real Estate Market Assessment” for EPCAL was done in Dec. 2011 by RKG Associates, who were subcontractors hired by VHB, which in turn was hired by the town in 2011 to do a number of studies of EPCAL for more than $600,000.

“The potentially developable acreage available at EPCAL is probably more than can be absorbed in a 20-30 year time period, barring its use for a regional facility of some sort,” the RKG study found in support of the so-called “mixed use” development at EPCAL.

“Therefore, some consideration should be given to allowing mixed use planned unit developments (PUD) at the site. Allowing a mix of uses would provide incentives for development on a speculative basis given the relatively low demand anticipated for office and industrial space over the next 3-5 years.”

The 2011 study added, “Since the EPCAL property was transferred to the town for the primary intent of promoting economic development, it is recommended that residential uses comprise no more than one third of any planned unit development project. Regulations for mixed use could be crafted to support construction of workforce housing and commercial uses while insuring that a specified percentage of the development was devoted to jobs production.”

Mr. Densieski wasn’t buying it.

“I saw the words ‘residential units’ numerous times in this document,” he said.

The EPCAL study predicts that by 2025, the proposed new zoning would result in 289,606 square feet of industrial and research development, 1.3 million square feet of office space, 385,785 square feet of commercial and retail space and 150 units of residential development.

By 2035, the study anticipates those numbers at 538,667 square feet of industrial and research development; 2.47 million square feet of office and industrial space; 667,340 square feet of commercial and retail space and 300 residential units.

Mr. Walsh said the proposed residential uses would be intended to provide housing for employees of large businesses at EPCAL.  Mr. Densieski suggested they could stay at local hotels.

Mr. Walsh added, “If the town decides take residential out of the (proposed) code, it will come out of the code.”

Several of the speakers who spoke at the Town Board’s hearing on the EPCAL plans repeated many of their comments at the Planning Board’s hearing, including Ray Maynard of SkyDive Long Island at EPCAL, who opposed residential uses there; former Congressman George Hochbrueckner, who pitched solar energy panels on the western runway, which is proposed to be covered in grass; and Craig Dahlgren of Manorville, who said the roads that surround EPCAL can’t handle the traffic that is there now.

Phil Barbato of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, said the town’s plans don’t indicate who will pay for road and infrastructure improvements needed at EPCAL.

And former Councilman George Bartunek asked that the plans be amended to preserve some land surrounding the town’s bike and walking path, including some lots along Route 25, where the path runs parallel to the road, but behind a fence, and at Line Road, which stretches from Grumman Boulevard to Route 25. The path had been built with the intention of eventually going around the entire perimeter of EPCAL.

The plan was supported by Edward Enders of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.

“This is a tremendous project,” he said of the plans to revitalize EPCAL. “I don’t think anybody is going to see a project like this again.”

The Planning Board opted to hold the hearing open for written comments till Oct. 2, its next meeting.