Lawyers to Planning Board: Please approve our EPCAL map

The view from the western runway at EPCAL
The view from the western runway at EPCAL last October. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Attorneys for Riverhead acknowledged to the the town’s Planning Board this week that it could reject a subdivision map for town-owned land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

But the hope, the attorneys said, is that the Planning Board approves the map.

Although Riverhead’s Town Board has driven most of the efforts to redevelop the former Grumann property — which is being counting on for future revenues — the subdivision must be approved by the Planning Board, whose members are appointed by the Town Board.

“This is a very expensive map to have to do formal engineering on,”  attorney Frank Isler told the Planning Board Thursday. “As I’m sure you know, so if there was a sense on the board that there were dramatic problems with the layout … the engineering would be significantly impacted, and we have to go back to the drawing board.

“We trying to avoid that, obviously, because of the size and scope of this project.”

Mr. Isler is seeking an informal “sense of the board” that it supports the basic design of the map ,so the town can move forward with final engineering drawings to submit to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which also must approve it.

The map calls for 49 lots with industrial and commercial development clustered mostly along Route 25 and along the property’s inactive western runway. It also calls for shortening the active 10,000-foot runway on the eastern portion of the property by 2,000 to 3,000 feet.

“Aren’t we putting the cart before the horse?” Planning Board member Joe Baier asked, saying that it doesn’t make sense to approve the subdivision map before the board knows other items, like what the zoning on the property will be.

Mr. Isler said the proposed map has been designed in conformance with the proposed zoning for the site, which was made public last year. The town and its consultants, VHB Engineering, have been developing the plan for the past three years in conjunction with DEC staff members, he said.

“After three years, we came up with a plan we believe they [DEC] are going to agree on,” Mr. Isler said.

The DEC is involved because there are protected species on the property, such as the tiger salamander and the short-eared owl.

State regulations require a permit to disturb the habitat of protected species. These habitats must be protected by means that include preserving grassland habitat for the owl around the EPCAL runways, and setting a buffer around salamander breeding ponds.

The town in recent years has drastically reduced the amount of land it had planned to develop at EPCAL to appease the DEC, even turning most of the 300 acres that Rechler Equities had planned to use for a hi-tech industrial park.

It’s now protected grassland.

“This is not a normal subdivision,” Mr. Isler said. “This is a unique piece of land and a unique project.”

Planning Board member Ed Densieski reiterated  that he does not support the proposed map, and said he believes industrial lots proposed along Route 25 should be moved near the runway, something that would require redrawing the map all over again.

“It’s going to be five to 10 years before anything happens here, so let’s get it right,” Mr. Densieski said earlier this year.

A majority of the board on Thursday indicated it would approve the “sense” resolution at the next meeting, although Mr. Densieski was out of the room at the time.

Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio also told the Planning Board Thursday that she opposes residential and retail uses at EPCAL, which have been proposed as accessory uses in support of commercial/industrial development in the proposed EPCAL zoning released last year.

“How much flexibility do we have?” Planning Board member George Nunnaro asked.

“You could say ‘we deny this map,” Mr. Isler said. “We prepared this map due to the constraints we have with the DEC…we believe this layout, with the habitat protection areas, will be approved by the DEC.”

He added, “from a legal perspective, you’re an independent board and can vote against the map. We hope you don’t.”

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