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Solar company sues town for rejecting its offer to buy EPCAL land


The solar energy company that recently offered Riverhead Town more than $40 million to buy over 1,600 acres of town-owned land at EPCAL is now suing the town for not letting them submit that offer.

In a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court Thursday, Sustainable Property Holdings LLC, and FTS Master Tenant 2 LLC – both known as sPower – named Riverhead Town, the Riverhead Town Community Development Agency, the Town Board, Calverton Aviation & Technology, Luminati Aerospace, Triple Five Ventures Co., LLC, and Triple Five Real Easter I, LLC as defendants.

In court papers, sPower says it is the largest private owner of solar farms in the country.

Attorney Jason Stern of Melville-based Weber Law Group told the Town Board at a public board meeting on Jan. 17 that his client would offer the town more for the EPCAL property than the $40 million that Calverton Aviation & Technology is offering,

But Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, who took office in January, said that the town is locked in a contract with CA&T – a joint venture between Luminati and Triple Five – because the prior board had signed a letter of intent to sell the land to Luminati.

She said Friday afternoon that a State Supreme Court judge has rejected sPower’s request for a restraining order to stop a Qualified and Eligible Sponsor hearing with Luminati from proceeding. Ms. Jens-Smith said the Town was guided by its attorneys in determining that the Letter of Intent from Luminati still applies.

She said the Town Board must follow through with the Qualified and Eligible Sponsor hearing to determine if CA&T has the finances and ability to do the independent development plan it submitted for the EPCAL land before the Town Board can consider other offers.

“sPower has attempted to submit a higher and better offer for the EPCAL property, but the CDA has refused to entertain any other offers,” a press release issued Friday by sPower attorneys Morton Weber and Jason Stern read. The CDA is made up of the same members as the town board.

“The CDA’s explanation for its refusal is the CDA’s belief that it is prohibited from doing so based on a letter of intent signed with Luminati Aerospace LLC in March 2017,” according to the press release.

“However,” the press release states, “that letter of intent only applies to a proposed deal with Luminati and Luminati alone… The current proposed deal is with CA&T, a joint venture between Luminati and a subsidiary of Triple Five Worldwide Group (“Triple Five”) — in which Triple Five is the majority owner.”

Last March, the original letter of intent only mentioned Luminati, but the company subsequently entered a partnership with United Refining Energy Corporation., headed by billionaire John Catsimatidis, and after that deal fell apart, it entered a partnership with Triple Five, a Canadian company best known for building shopping malls.

“sPower has commenced this lawsuit seeking a declaration from the Courts that the letter of intent is invalid and therefore, the CDA must entertain other offers for the EPCAL Property,” the press release added. “sPower is confident that it will prevail on the merits of this action and is hopeful that it can ultimately work with the CDA to find the highest and best use of this uniquely important development property.”

Robert Hasday, the attorney for Luminati, said State Supreme Court on Feb. 1 denied sPower’s request for a temporary restraining order against the town that would have prevented the town’s Qualified and Eligible Sponsor hearing with SA&T from moving forward. The hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27.

“The Court’s decision was made after deliberations about the local economic benefits from the development of a new aviation and technology center, including the employment of large numbers of highly paid skilled labor, compared to the operation of a solar farm, in which there are no onsite employees following construction,” Mr. Hasday said. “The Court also addressed the fact that this lawsuit was solely in the economic interests of the two solar companies and had nothing to do with the interests of taxpayers of the Town of Riverhead.”

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Photo: sPower, which owns this solar farm on Edwards Avenue, is seeking to buy 1,640 acres at EPCAL (Credit: Tim Gannon)