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Split board votes to close hearing on EPCAL sale

In a 3-2 vote split along party lines, the Riverhead Town Board voted Tuesday to close the qualified and eligible sponsor hearing for Calverton Aviation & Technology on Friday, May 4. 

Republicans Jim Wooten, Jodi Giglio and Tim Hubbard voted in favor, while Democrats Catherine Kent and Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith were opposed, and wanted to keep the hearing open until the May 15 board meeting.

CAT is proposing to buy 1,640 acres of town land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton for $40 million. The qualified and eligible sponsor hearing is required to ensure CAT has the ability and finances to carry out its development plan for the land. Two hearings have been held so far, and the board has yet to make a decision.

Closing the hearing as of May 4 would mean there can be no further public comment and no further questioning of the applicant, the supervisor said.

“The record will be closed and then we will just move forward with a decision,” she said.

Ms. Jens-Smith and Ms. Kent said that hundreds of pages of responses from CAT were submitted to the town late Friday, and it would take time for board members to read all of that information by the May 4 deadline.

“Not leaving the hearing open for public comment, at least until the next Town Board meeting, is a disservice,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “We just received a file from CAT that’s a couple inches thick late Friday. I think it’s only appropriate we allow the community time to respond to that.”

“This is too important a decision to be railroaded through,” Ms. Kent said. “I think we need more time.”

Mr. Wooten and Mr. Hubbard said the questions they’ve been receiving from the public are redundant and they are hearing the same questions and answers over and over.

“The information we received is posted online. Today is May 1. I have no problem going with May 4,” Mr. Hubbard said Tuesday. “That’s plenty of time. The same questions keep getting asked over and over because people don’t like the answers.”

Riverhead resident John McAuliffe said that if the hearing is closed and CAT hasn’t answered a question, there will be no way to get those answers.

Ms. Jens-Smith said the board should at least wait until the town ethics board makes a ruling on whether Ms. Giglio should recuse herself from voting on CAT.

On April 12, the Coalition Against EPCAL Housing made a formal complaint to the ethics board regarding Ms. Giglio’s private meeting with CAT representatives in Manhattan about their plans for EPCAL.

“It is our contention that Ms. Giglio’s behavior tainted the qualified and eligible public hearing process,” the complaint states.

The coalition said it believes her actions “irrevocably harmed Ms. Giglio’s ability to make a determination” on the matter and it asked that she recuse herself from the vote.

Ms. Giglio has said she will not recuse herself from voting on CAT, and she says she was doing her due diligence in vetting CAT by meeting with them in Manhattan.

The ethics board was scheduled to meet Tuesday and it was uncertain if Ms. Giglio’s case was discussed. Meetings of the ethics board are not open to the public and its recommendations to the Town Board are confidential.

Ms. Giglio said she was not told that her case would be discussed or that the ethics board was meeting Tuesday.

Ethics board members are appointed by the Town Board. The current members are JeanMarie Costello, John Lombardi, Donna Barnard, John Munzel and Audrey Zaweski.

The information submitted to the town on Friday included 280 pages of  verbatim minutes from the March 19 Q&E hearing; CAT’s written responses to questions posed by the town and residents; a 263-page document that includes Public Finance Authority information on CAT’s American Dream project in New Jersey; the operating agreement between Triple Five and Luminati Aerospace; a 76-page brochure from Triple Five Worldwide; estimated infrastructure costs for EPCAL, which come to more than $47 million; photos of Triple Five’s McCarran Sunset Business Park in Las Vegas; the 42-page agreement of sale between CAT and the town; and copies of letters from companies interested in leasing land at EPCAL from CAT.

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