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Luminati finds another partner for EPCAL

In the latest developments in the saga surrounding the sale of Riverhead-owned land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, a new financial partner has stepped in with Luminati Aerospace LLC and a New York billionaire says he is no longer involved in the project.

News that Triple Five Ventures Co. LLC has entered an agreement with Luminati Aerospace reached the Town Board in the last 10 days, according to Supervisor Sean Walter. The board also learned that United Refining Energy Co., owned by billionaire John Catsimatidis, is no longer part of discussions with the aerospace company.

“We made a proposal that was not accepted and Luminati found another backer,” Nelson Happy, an attorney and spokesman for Mr. Catsimatidis, said Wednesday in an email.

The news of one Luminati partner pulling out and a new one emerging is the latest in the shake-ups that have affected Riverhead’s years-long effort to develop a part of the EPCAL property.

Luminati Aerospace attorney Robert Hasday confirmed a written agreement with Triple Five Ventures Co. LLC, which is owned by the Ghermezian brothers, to form a joint venture to finance Luminati and develop the property. The brothers own companies that “focus primarily on such industrial development,” Mr. Hasday said Wednesday in an email.

The Ghermezians also run Triple Five Worldwide Group of Companies, which has built, owned and operated “the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, world’s largest tourism retail and entertainment complexes of its kind,” according to the multinational diversified conglomerate’s website.

One of its most notable projects is the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. — the largest shopping mall in the country.

Mr. Walter called it a substantial company and said Triple Five knows “they can’t build a Mall of America” at EPCAL, as retail is an accessory use there.

Since the 10-day extension requested by Riverhead’s attorneys expired this week, Mr. Walter said a “firm” contract is now in place.

This latest twist in the Luminati saga comes eight months after the Town Board endorsed the firm’s letter of intent to purchase approximately 1,700 acres at EPCAL for $40 million.

If Town Board members vote next Tuesday to accept this new contract and proceed with a qualified and eligible sponsor hearing, that hearing could be held as soon as Jan. 16.

“I hope the Town Board has the courage of their conviction to vote for this,” Mr. Walter said.

This week, board support for the contract and subsequent hearing was not unanimous. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she will not vote for the contract or in favor of the hearing, while Councilman John Dunleavy said he wants to read the contract further.

“I’m not sure I can at this point,” said Councilman Tim Hubbard on supporting a hearing. He said he wanted to wait until supervisor-elect Laura Jens-Smith and incoming board member Catherine Kent were sworn in.

Mr. Hubbard said he had wanted two provisions included in the contract. One, which was incorporated, was that no housing would be allowed on the sold land. His other issue concerns selling all the EPCAL acreage, instead of just the 600 acres that can be developed. If environmental restrictions on the remaining land were eased in the future, and all or part of it were sold, he would prefer some assurance that the town would be compensated.

Ms. Giglio said she doesn’t support the contract because items she wanted it to include were not added. She said she sent a letter to fellow board members in June outlining the provisions she wants, such as giving the town a right of first refusal in case the property is flipped and resold and setting performance standards for job creation.

“I’m not supporting the qualified and eligible hearing because I don’t support the contract,” she said.

Councilman Jim Wooten said it’s time to move forward with the hearing as part of the process. He said he’d love nothing more than to see EPCAL sold, the town get the money in the bank and local jobs created.

“Riverhead’s been struggling with the EPCAL property for over two decades,” he said. “We’re closer now than we’ve ever been.”

Mr. Hubbard, Ms. Giglio and Councilman John Dunleavy invited Ms. Jens-Smith and Ms. Kent to sit in on Thursday’s executive session on the contract.

“It was a mandate by the public to change the dynamics of the board and I think it’s important to listen to the public through their supervisor-elect and councilwoman-elect,” Ms. Giglio said.

“It’s only fair,” Mr. Hubbard said. “It’s the right thing to do, as far as I’m concerned.”

Mr. Wooten said he doesn’t want anyone to be swayed by the incoming board members’ presence and that they could learn what’s going on through the attorneys hired to handle the contract negotiations. Mr. Walter said the newly elected members met with the town’s attorneys working on the deal this week.

“We’re at a point now where decisions have to be made whether to go forward with the contract to then move on to preparing for the Q and E,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “If they decide to void the contract then we need to get ahead with marketing the property.”

If the qualified and eligible hearing is approved on Tuesday, the contract would be made available to the public before it takes place, Mr. Hubbard said.

Photo caption: Inside Luminati’s Calverton facility at a press event earlier this year. (Credit: Krysten Massa, file)

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