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EPCAL subdivision moves forward despite objections from former officials

Despite calls from residents to postpone the vote — in part on the basis of new information that hadn’t been available previously — the Riverhead Planning Board voted unanimously Thursday to approve a consistency analysis and finding statement for an eight-lot preliminary subdivision at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The subdivision is needed in order for Calverton Aviation & Technology to buy 1,643 acres of land from Riverhead Town to build a commercial and aviation uses at the EPCAL site. 

CAT this week indicated it plans to move forward with the purchase of the property. 

A 2017 agreement requires the town to file a subdivision map for CAT. The town map must then gain approval from town, state and federal agencies within a year. 

CAT is proposing to buy three of the eight lots. The others are town-owned. Those three lots total 898, 727 and 18 acres, respectively.

Prior to the emergence of CAT, which comprises Triple Five (75% ownership) and Luminati Enterprise LLC (25% ownership), the town was working on a 50-lot subdivision of the same property, of which the town planned to sell 40 lots.

At issue, both at Thursday’s Planning Board meeting and prior Planning Board meetings on the subdivision issue, is the town’s contention that the state Environmental Quality Review Act studies done for the prior subdivision apply to the current eight-lot subdivision.

Frank Isler, the attorney representing the town on this proposal, said that since the subdivision only involves “erasing” lines on a map, there is no development to study until an actual development plan is submitted, and that wouldn’t happen until after the land is sold.

Others disagree. 

Barbara Blass, who served over 19 years on the town Planning Board, and Phil Barbato, a 17-year former state Department of Environmental Conservation engineer, both cited the same section of state law, that reads “the acquisition, sale, lease, annexation or other transfer of 100 or more contiguous acres of land by a state, or local annex,” must be considered a “Type 1” action, which requires environmental study. 

Ms. Blass said the town posted a new resolution for the subdivision approval on Thursday, the same day as the meeting, and it posted an addendum to the consistency analysis the same day. 

“It frankly puts the public in a little bit of a disadvantage,” Ms. Blass said. “We were operating off the former resolution.”

Mr. Barbato said two of the changes in the resolution “appear to be specifically designed to facilitate the future development of currently protected environmentally significant areas.”

Mr. Isler, reading from the consistency analysis, said that at a June 2, 2017, meeting between town officials and DEC officials, the DEC determined that an endangered species “incidental take” permit would not be required of the town for the eight-lot subdivision. 

Mr. Isler said whenever someone tries to develop the three lots, they will likely need permits from the state, and they will have to perform environmental studies of the property.   

“We don’t underestimate anything we get from the public, especially from people who have experience in a specific field,” said Planning Board chair Stan Carey. 

But he said sometimes the public comments conflict with what the applicant’s state, in which case the Planning Board relies on its own attorney.

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