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Town attorney outlines next steps in EPCAL sale to Calverton Aviation & Technology

03/15/2019 6:00 AM |

Calverton Aviation & Technology faces a May 20 deadline to decide if it will moving forward with the purchase of 1,643 acres of land from Riverhead Town for $40 million. After that, many of the next steps are up to the town, according to Frank Isler, the attorney representing the town on the Enterprise Park at Calverton sale.

Mr. Isler gave an update at Thursday’s Town Board work session on the steps needed for the EPCAL development.

After May 20, the town has one year from to get approval of an eight-lot subdivision of EPCAL, with three of those lots being sold to CAT.

The approval must be received from all the agencies involved, which would be the town Planning Board, town board, county health department and state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC approval is only for permission to build in a section of the state’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, which limits development near the Peconic River, Mr. Isler said.

Mr. Isler said work on that subdivision has already begun, as papers are being filed with the Planning Board and the amended map will be introduced to the Planning Board at its work session next Thursday, at 3 p.m.

“We’ve been working on this since they signed the contract,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said.

Mr. Isler said the Planning Board plans to vote to schedule a public hearing on the subdivision on its April 4 meeting, and that hearing would take place at the May 2 meeting.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because the town and the Planning Board already went through subdivision hearing process several years ago when the officials were proposing a 50-lot subdivision, which was prior to CAT being involved.

That subdivision was never approved.

“We feel this should go fairly expeditiously because this is a lesser development plan,” Mr. Isler said of the eight-lot plan.

He said he hopes the Planning Board, on April 4, will also make a finding under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which will enable the application to go before the county health department as well.

The proposed upgrade and expansion of the Calverton Sewer District and of the Riverhead Water District to the EPCAL land also is needed, and these items will be before the Town Board.

CAT is currently in its second 90-day “due diligence period” on the property. The first once expired Feb. 20 and they requested another one, as permitted under the agreement with the town. In turn, CAT has made two $500,000 down payments on the property, which are being kept in escrow.

“When can we get a definitive answer from the DEC as to how many acres will be developable?” Councilman Tim Hubbard asked.

When the property was proposed for sale to a company called Suffolk County Industrial Development LLC, then-Supervisor Sean Walter said many times that the DEC would only allow about 600 acres of the EPCAL site to be developed.

But when he proposed to sell the land to Luminati Aerospace — which is currently a 20 percent owner of CAT, with Triple Five Group owning the rest — he proposed selling the whole 1,643 acres of undeveloped land that the town still owned.

Ms. Jens-Smith says the town has received no guidance from the state as to how many acres CAT can develop at EPCAL.

“You will not get a decision in this process from the DEC,” Mr. Isler said.

The DEC approval in this application is only to the WSRRA act, Mr. Isler said.

“That’s all they’re looking at,” he said. “It will have nothing to do with development of the property.”

After the property is sold, the applicant will need to go before the town for site plan approval and they will mostly likely have to show the DEC that they are not building in environmentally sensitive areas.

It’s possible they will need a “incidental take permit” from the DEC to allow development in areas where endangered or threatened species are located.

They also will likely need a SEQRA study, although some of it may have already been studied by the town’s SEQRA study, he said.

“You won’t know where or how much is being developed until we are no longer own the property,” Mr. Isler said.

Deputy Town Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti said any site plan approval will involve an analysis of whether the development plans are consistent with the town’s Reuse and Revitalization Plan for EPCAL.

“Even if all the other agencies find that it is consistent, it’s going to be this Town Board that has final say,” she said.

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