This year’s Riverhead Town Board candidates discussed their ideas for the Enterprise Park at Calverton during a forum Thursday night at Martha Clara Vineyards.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilman John Dunleavy’s seats are up for grabs. Ms. Giglio, who has served on the all-Republican Town Board since 2010 and owns a construction company in town, will face Republican challenger Frank Beyrodt and Democrats Catherine Kent and Michele Lynch.
Mr. Dunleavy, who reached his term limit as a town council member this year, is vying for write-in votes for town supervisor after he was officially knocked off the ballot last month.
Ms. Giglio ran for supervisor in 2015 after winning the Republican primary against incumbent Sean Walter. Mr. Walter, who ran on the Conservative line, was re-elected.
Mr. Beyrodt of the DeLea sod farm is a former Long Island Farm Bureau president and serves as an Island Harvest board member.
Ms. Kent, a lifelong Riverhead resident, is a retired teacher who worked in the Riverhead school district for 31 years.
Ms. Lynch recently retired as political director for the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union.
The forum, which also featured candidates for supervisor and assessor, was sponsored by the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, the Long Island Farm Bureau, the Long Island Builders Institute and the New York League of Conservation Voters.
Below is a rundown of some of the issues discussed during the Town Board candidate forum:
Each candidate said they oppose housing at EPCAL, which is an option the town supervisor supports.
As for a plan to have the town sell 600 acres at EPCAL to Luminati Aerospace for $40 million, Ms. Giglio said she’s been skeptical of the deal, but hopes it will come through.
She added the town doesn’t have money to build roads and infrastructure at EPCAL.
Mr. Beyrodt said although he’s not privy to the negotiations, he’s also hopeful the deal will be finalized.
“It will benefit the community,” he said.
Ms. Kent and Ms. Lynch both noted Luminati’s CEO Dan Preston’s controversial background — he was fired from his previous job and has been sued for fraud. They added the town should have researched Mr. Preston’s past prior to starting negotiations with him over EPCAL land.
Each candidate said they’re in favor of agritourism and agritainment.
Ms. Lynch said she believes “agricultural has to reinvent itself.”
Ms. Kent said she would like to see agritourism traffic problems addressed “because we want to see our farmers thrive.”
Ms. Giglio said, “I think the farmers are doing a great job. The more farmland was can preserve, the less taxes, police, hospital and services we will need and it will keep our taxes down.”
Mr. Beyrodt, a farmer, joked: “Do I really have to answer this question?”
He added farmers need to adapt into other industries, including wineries and breweries.
When asked what his vision is for the town, Mr. Beyrodt said, “beautiful productive farmland, great bays … and a great thriving downtown.”
He said he’d like to see the community “come together and work toward a common goal.”
Ms. Giglio said she has always strived to preserve rural corridors and voted against settling lawsuits challenging the town’s master plan. She’s also supported farmland and landmark preservation.
Ms. Kent said she believes there’s a lot of work to be done in town since there are 14 empty stores in downtown. She added she opposes five-story buildings blocking the view of the riverfront.
“I’d like to retain the rural historic charm of the town,” she said.
Ms. Lynch said she also believes more should be done to maintain Riverhead’s character.
“Route 58 is like Centereach,” she said.
Mr. Beyrodt said: “I think what I will bring is a fresh prospective to the job.”
DeLea sod farm has been around for nearly nine decades and his family also owns Cherry Creek Golf Course and Woods at Cherry Creek.
“I’m no stranger to state and local government,” he said. “I work on both sides of the issue and I think some of the contacts I’ve made through the years will be very valuable on the local level.”
Ms. Giglio said: “The residents of the town are disgusted with their school taxes, which is why I am focused on overcrowded illegal housing and I’ve put code enforcement in place.”
The town has received 44 complaints about illegal housing since January and has hired more code enforcement officers, she said.
Ms. Giglio added her husband also owns a local business, “so we rarely leave Riverhead.”
Ms. Kent said: “I was a teacher for 31 years. I was very active in the school community and the teachers union. I worked tirelessly with my colleagues to secure more state aid for the school district, which will help the entire town.”
Ms. Kent said she knows how to negotiate contracts and is good at bringing people to the table to come to a consensus.
Ms. Lynch said: “I was an administrative organizer responsible for five hospitals and three nursing homes and I negotiated contracts for all of them. I did arbitrations, mediations and labor-management committee meetings.”
Ms. Lynch said she’s worked across party lines and described herself as a consensus builder since she’s worked for one of the largest healthcare union in the country.
Photo: From left, clockwise, incumbent Republican Jodi Giglio, Democratic candidate Michele Lynch, Democratic candidate Catherine Kent and Republican candidate Frank Beyrodt. (Credit: Tim Gannon)