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Town Board majority to vote in favor of Luminati hearing

A majority of the Riverhead Town Board now plans to vote in favor of scheduling a “qualified and eligible sponsor” hearing for Luminati Aerospace, which is seeking to buy approximately 1,700 acres of land from the town at the Enterprise Park at Calverton for $40 million.

The hearing notice lists the applicant as “Calverton Aviation & Technology LLC,” a joint venture between Luminati Aerospace and Triple Five Ventures Co, LLC, and says the intended development plan calls for ” the construction and operation of commercial and industrial aviation and associated businesses, as well as other uses consistent with the PD zoning district, but not including residential uses.”

The board is set to vote Tuesday night to schedule that hearing for the Jan. 17, 2018 meeting, by which time newly-elected Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and Councilwoman Catherine Kent, both Democrats, will have replaced Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy, both Republicans.

But Mr. Walter, Mr. Dunleavy and Republican Councilman Jim Wooten will be voting to set the hearing before the new members take office. The other two current board members, Republicans Tim Hubbard and Jodi Giglio, plan to vote against scheduling the hearing.

The Q&E hearing is required when a municipality is selling land within an urban renewal area such as EPCAL. The goal of the hearing is to find out if the prospective buyer has the finances and ability to carry out whatever plans it has for the land.

Luminati had originally said it was backed by a client whose name they could not disclose, but which Mr. Walter had later said was Facebook. When that fell through, Luminati began negotiating with United Refining Energy Corp., led by billionaire John Catsimatidis, who already owns two businesses in Riverhead Town, including one at EPCAL.

That deal recently fell apart as well, and Luminati has now entered an agreement with a privately-owned company called Triple Five Ventures Co. LLC., which is based in Edmonton, Canada.

That company is best known for building huge shopping centers, such as the Mall of America in Minnesota, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, and the still-under-construction American Dream shopping center in the New Jersey Meadowlands, which it took over in 2013 after its original owner filed for bankruptcy in 2007.

Large shopping centers are not permitted by the EPCAL zoning, but Luminati’s attorney, Robery Hasday, said that Triple Five also owns companies that “focus primarily” on industrial development.

Mr. Dunleavy, who has been critical of the Luminati deal, said he will vote to schedule the hearing because “the hearing will make or break them. And then the new board can see if they want it or not.”

He added that “they can ask all the questions they want” at the hearing.

Mr. Hubbard said he will not vote to hold the public hearing because the contract with Luminati doesn’t include a provision whereby the town would be reimbursed if additional land becomes developable in the future.

Currently, only about 600 acres can be developed, officials said.

The contract does say that Luminati will not build residential housing, Mr. Hubbard said.

Ms. Giglio has consistently opposed the Luminati deal because it failed to include a number of changes she sought, such as giving the town a right of first refusal if Luminati later seeks to sell it.

“There’s no sense in delaying it any further,” Mr. Wooten said, citing the seven months the town has been dealing with the prospective sale to Luminati. He said that at the public hearing, “we can find out where the $40 million comes from.”

Mr. Walter has consistently backed the Luminati deal.

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