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CAT officials outline updated plan, say they’re recruiting firms to EPCAL

Calverton Aviation & Technology unveiled some of its plans for the Enterprise Park at Calverton, a site it hopes could someday be recognized as the “Silicon Valley of the East.”

Representatives from the company that’s in contract for the $40 million purchase of town-owned land spoke at Thursday morning’s Riverhead Town Board work session. While they were short on specifics, the CAT officials said they are looking to attract firms in the field of research and development, prototype development and manufacturing, aerospace, aviation, transportation, energy, and technology. The two runways at EPCAL will only be used by companies that are located at the site, they added, trying to alleviate concerns of the property becoming an airport.

Town Board members asked for additional and more specific information, and officials said another meeting with CAT will likely be scheduled, possibly for September.

CAT representatives confirmed that Daniel Preston and Luminati Aerospace are still part of CAT, despite the company moving from Calverton to upstate. While Mr. Preston will remain a presence, Luminati will only be one of several like-kind technology companies that will be located at EPCAL.

Luminati originally signed a letter of intent with the town in April 2017 and later joined Triple Five Group to form CAT. When a number of reports of Mr. Preston’s troubled past surfaced, CAT announced that he would only be a non-voting member of CAT, and would only own 25% of the company.

The Town Board in November 2018 voted to declare CAT “qualified and eligible sponsor” to buy and develop 1,643 acres, in a 3-2 party-line vote with Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and Councilwoman Catherine Kent opposed.

Attorney Chris Kent, representing CAT, also said the organization could benefit from state efforts to increase use of renewable energy.

This could including building component parts for a 1,700-megawatt wind turbine proposed 30 miles south of Montauk in the Atlantic Ocean, and well as a project to reduce emissions in the transportation sector. Mr. Kent said CAT has been negotiating with a large transportation company that is proposing to change a significant portion of its fleet to electric power.

He would not identify any of the companies CAT is negotiating with because CAT doesn’t own the property yet, although he said the companies that submitted letters of intent during a “qualified and eligible sponsor” hearing last year are still interested. Mr. Kent is Councilwoman Kent’s ex-husband.

CAT recently completed two 90-day due diligence periods and decided it wants to move forward with the purchase. The next step is for the town to approve a subdivision for the property, a move that requires state and county approvals.

It must be approved by May 15, 2020.

CAT said it wants to use the existing rail spur at EPCAL to not only bring in and ship out materials, but also someday to transport employees and visitors at EPCAL businesses by using the Long Island Rail Road main line, according to Mr. Kent.

They also propose a rail depot that will serve the existing industrial park at EPCAL and proposed new development there, he said.

“Our goal would be to meet both current baseload demand and to be an independent supplier of all the power needed to supply the EPCAL campus,” Mr. Kent said.

The site could someday be recognized as the “Silicon Valley of the East,” he said.

As for Mr. Preston, Mr. Kent said “he remains a critical member of CAT and he is committed to serve Luminati’s role in the project.”

He said “negative publicity and professional and personal attacks against him and Luminati made him decide to pursue his activities upstate for now.”

Mr. Preston’s “limited role does not affect CAT’s ability to meet its obligations under the purchase agreement,” Mr. Kent said.

The plan being developed by CAT is an 8-lot subdivision in which three of the eight lots would be purchased by CAT, with the town retaining the others.

The 8-lot subdivision moved development closer to the runway than a 50-lot subdivision that the town previously proposed, and as a result, preserves more contiguous grasslands, according to Mr. Kent.

CAT has not submitted any official site plan for the property, he said.

CAT is not disclosing names of companies it is negotiations with because it wants to protect prospective tenants from being damaged by current negative stories being published about Luminati, Mr. Preston and Triple Five, he said.

Councilman Tim Hubbard asked if there were any plans for a casino on the site.

“We are not planning on a casino,” said Amy Herbold, CAT’s director of development.

As for a jet cargo port, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the zoning requires use of the runways to be limited to companies with manufacturing businesses at EPCAL.

Ms. Giglio and Mr. Hubbard both voted for CAT’s qualified and eligible sponsor designation, along with Councilman Jim Wooten.

In regard to recent drawings submitted to the state showing 10 million square feet of development at the site, Mr. Kent said that is the maximum buildout allowed at the site, and they are required by law to study the full buildout.

Ms. Jens-Smith said she’s still waiting to hear how CAT was moving forward with aviation and technology uses.

“It will come,” Mr. Kent said.

Ms. Jens-Smith said that at the Q&E hearing, Triple Five was presented as the development aspect of the proposal and Luminati was bringing the aviation and technology aspect.

“I’m not making this leap that Daniel Preston is that person anymore,” Ms. Jens-Smith said. “We know that he defaulted [on a $10 million loan] with Hexcel, which really puts a black mark on his reputation and the aviation and high-tech industry. So where are you filling that void, with whom and how?”

Mr. Kent answered: “We’re not prepared to tell you all that but the agreements are ongoing. There will be partnership agreements as well as tenancy agreements with several companies being negotiated.”

He said CAT will bring in involved parties at a follow-up meeting.

“We have a huge responsibility protecting the town,” Ms. Kent said. “And quite frankly, I feel like we’ve really been in the dark.”

Mr. Hubbard said he will “take you at your word” for not wanting to disclose names of companies in negotiation.

Mr. Kent said CAT has to wait until the subdivision is approved, and then, they would file site plans applications.

“We’re looking, really, two years,” Mr. Kent said. He said they need more information from the town on the status of the subdivision.

Ms. Jens-Smith said they want to know who is on CAT’s “team.”

Mr. Kent said they will provide that.

Ms. Herbold said they will come back and answer the additional questions at a future meeting.

Photo caption: An overhead rendering of the EPCAL site.

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