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EPCAL Watch Coalition threatens to sue town if land sale deal goes through

Riverhead Town Board members have publicly stated on several occasions that they fear the town could be sued if it doesn’t follow through with its sale of land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton to Calverton Aviation & Technology. 

But now it looks like the town could also be sued even if it does follow through.

The EPCAL Watch Coalition last Monday sent a letter to the Town Board stating: “It is unconscionable, irresponsible and illegal for the Town to continue to ignore these unequivocal lawful requirements … Should the Town and Community Development Agency continue to ignore these mandates when they have a legitimate way under the contract to get out of this predicament, EPCAL Watch will seek judicial intervention and appropriate relief.”

EPCAL Watch Coalition is coordinated by Rex Farr of Calverton and its members include Richard Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society; Sid Bail of the Wading River Civic Association; Toqui Terchun, George Bartunek and Janice Sherer of the Greater Calverton Civic Association; Phil Barbato of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition; Bob DeLuca of Group for the East End; former town councilwoman Barbara Blass; Mark Haubner of the North Fork Environmental Council; and several others. (Following this article’s publication, Mr. Bartunek clarified that as a member of the Greater Calverton Civic Association, he is not necessarily taking a stand in support of the group’s initiative. He is the co-chair of the town’s Environmental Advisory Committee, whose members are appointed to offer advice to the town board on environmental matters. He said there has been no discussion among the committee members of judicial intervention.)

The letter states that the agreement between CAT and the town — which was developed during former supervisor Sean Walter’s administration — allows either side to terminate the deal if, at the end of one year following the end of the due diligence period, on May 20, 2020, an eight-lot subdivision of the property is not complete. 

The group feels the town can and should terminate the deal now, based on prior actions by CAT.

Specifically, the EPCAL Watch Coalition says that CAT — headed by Triple 5 Group, which is best known for malls and entertainment ventures — has no experience in building projects involving aerospace and related technology. It also says CAT has “failed to provide evidence of its financial ability and has never provided a specific project for the property.”

In addition, the coalition states that “CAT has not demonstrated integrity and responsibility.”

“We are still meeting our requirements, as per the contract,” said Supervisor Yvette Aguiar in response. “We still have to maintain our contractual responsibility to provide the subdivision, and concerning CAT, if and when we get the subdivision, then we will address their financial stability.”

Ms. Aguiar said that if the town doesn’t follow through with the contract, “we will be in court and the land will be tied up for five years and we will not be able to market the land or to sell it.” 

She said she’d like to see pharmaceutical companies and companies that make personal protective equipment come to EPCAL.

As for the possibility of a suit against the town by EPCAL Watch Coalition, Ms. Aguiar said “EPCAL Watch has the right to try to seek redress in court, but we do have a binding contract and we are ensuring that we comply with it.” 

“I don’t want to see the town get tied up in court, but I thought it was a good letter,” said Councilwoman Catherine Kent, who voted against declaring CAT a “qualified and eligible sponsor” three years ago. “It brought up a lot of good points, things that I have discussed along the way. And it served as a comprehensive timeline to some of the things that have occurred.”