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Luminati plans its own EPCAL subdivision; unnamed financial backer steps up

Luminati Aerospace will pay Riverhead Town $13,050 to hire surveyors to help draw its own subdivision map of the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Riverhead Town has already paid consultants more than $500,000 for work since 2011, including devising a new 50-lot industrial subdivision at EPCAL, with the goal of being able to sell the smaller lots individually or in bulk.

But Luminati is only seeking to have two large lots in a seven-lot subdivision; the town would own the other five lots, which include the town sewer plant, the recreation trail and a town park, Supervisor Sean Walter said at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.

“Then what did we pay $500,000 for?” Rex Farr, president of the Greater Calverton Civic Association who has opposed any housing at EPCAL, asked during the public portion of the meeting. 

“Our subdivision is different from their subdivision,” Mr. Walter said.

Luminati representatives have said they have no current plans for housing at EPCAL.

The town was not planning an “aviation-centric” subdivision because a market study it commissioned had said it probably would not be able to attract an aviation manufacturer to the site, Mr. Walter said. Because of this, the town had planned to close one runway at EPCAL and shorten the other.

Luminati, on the other hand, wants to keep both runways, he said.

Mr. Walter said the 50-lot subdivision is still in play in the event the Luminati deal doesn’t pan out.

He said survey work is a small part of the $500,000 the town has spent on EPCAL.

Luminati has offered the town $40 million for the remainder of the more than 1,000 acres the town owns at EPCAL, including about 600 acres that officials say is all that can be built upon.

Mr. Walter confirmed Monday that Facebook Inc., through which the company had first approached the town, is no longer a financial backer in the deal and has not been for some time.

While that relationship no longer stands, the supervisor said at least one other financial backer has stepped up, although he could not name it. Mr. Walter said he had participated in meetings with Facebook, then with both the social media company and Luminati CEO Daniel Preston.

“When Facebook and Luminati parted, I don’t know,” he said.

Councilman Tim Hubbard confirmed that Facebook has not been in the picture “for some time,” but also said it was not clear when exactly the relationship ended. He said that was “one of the many red flags” that signaled him to “proceed with caution” toward contract negotiations. He also said he’s unaware at this time of any new financial backers that have stepped up.

“I can’t wait to get into that to see what we can find out because I just feel like we don’t know enough right now at this point in time about Mr. Preston or Luminati,” Mr. Hubbard said of the vetting process. “That will certainly answer a lot of questions.”

A Luminati spokesman acknowledged that last year, the aerospace startup and one of its clients mutually agreed to terminate their relationship and go their separate ways, but that it continues to focus on its goal to manufacture high altitude, long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles; hire additional personnel, both nationally and locally, to operate the machines located in Plant 6; complete its purchase of an additional 2,300 acres of property at EPCAL; enter into relationships with additional financing sources; and expand its collaborations with Hexcel Corporation and DuPont.

Qualified and eligible sponsor hearings, which are part of the contract negotiations, are expected to kick off this summer, town officials confirmed.

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File photo: Luminati CEO Daniel Preston (third from left) and visitors watch a machine produce fiber composite material Friday at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. (Credit: Krysten Massa)