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Residents raise questions on proposed drag racing event at EPCAL

The Riverhead Town Board held off on voting on a two-day drag racing event at Enterprise Park at Calverton Wednesday after hearing opposition from residents, who cited a number of inconsistencies in the application. 

Scrambul Runway Challenge is proposing the two-day event on June 19 and 20. Amateur racers would face off on the EPCAL runway on tracks of 1/8-mile, 1/4-mile and 1/2-mile. The application calls for the use of the runways from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Andre Baxter, the president and CEO of Scrambul Inc., had discussed the program at the April 29 Town Board work session and the board approved a special event permit May 4.

The vote May 19 was for a short-term runway agreement, and board members unanimously tabled that resolution until a future vote.

Councilman Tim Hubbard said the application calls for the use of both EPCAL runways, one of which is an active runway and the other is not. Mr. Hubbard said Scrambul will need Federal Aviation Administration approval to do that, and that has not been provided.

The town will receive $10,000 in exchange for the use of the runways. 

“There’s a number of questionable items in the application,” said Phil Barbato of Jamesport. It says there will be 150 visitors per day, 150 visitors per hour and no spectators.

“That’s pretty weird, since their website says they are sold out,” Mr. Barbato said. 

The application also lists the “total acreage of the site of the proposed action” as 2,921 acres, which is the entire EPCAL property, Mr. Barbato said. 

The application says the event is not near any animals or habitat listed as threatened or endangered, which Mr. Barbato says is incorrect. It also says the adjoining property has not been the subject of remediation for hazardous waste. He said the Navy is in the process of cleaning up contamination at EPCAL and the site is not far from a Superfund site. 

Mr. Baxter had told the Town Board in April that he’s already gotten interest from racers and expects anywhere from 100-200 participants with as many as 1,000 spectators, although he expects it to be a “rolling audience” with people coming and going throughout the day.

The proposed runway use agreement limits the number of tickets that can be sold to the public — spectators and racers — at 1,000 over the course of the two days.

Residents also questioned the experience Mr. Baxter purportedly has after saying at the earlier work session he and his crew have a combined 30 years experience, although there’s no evidence of Scrambul having put together a similar event. Mr. Baxter did not respond to an email in late April seeking information on prior events he has organized.

Kathy McGraw of Northville said the special event approval resolution says that “if the certificate of insurance is not received 30 days prior to the commencement of the event, the application shall be deemed incomplete and will be denied.”

The certificate was due Tuesday, May 18, she said. 

Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said the insurance certificate was received either Tuesday or Monday. 

Councilman Ken Rothwell said Mr. Baxter has indicated that he has no plans to use any of the grasslands and will only use the runways and taxiways. 

The town is requiring mufflers on the cars, and they will be inspected to ensure that. 

No improvements are planned for the concrete runways, although Mr. Kozakiewicz said trees are starting to sprout on the sides of the 7,000-foot runway since the town stopped mowing the grass at EPCAL.

Town Engineer Drew Dillingham said he drove on the inactive western runway at about 160 mph and didn’t have any problems. But he suggested the town might want to have an expert weigh in on that. 

Police Chief David Hegermiller said he still has questions about the application. The town is also waiting for comments from the fire marshal, officials said. 

The special event resolution calls for short-term license agreement to be fully executed by June 1. 

“There are a lot of details that need to be ironed out,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said. 

The board voted unanimously to hold off on the runway-use agreement until more information is attained.

An application is also pending for a different drag race event that would be held later in the summer. The organizer behind that event, Pete Scalzo, who’s been in the motor sports promotion business for 35 years and operated several race tracks, told the News-Review he had no knowledge of the Scrambul event or its organizer. He expressed concern that negative feedback on the Scrambul event could adversely affect his proposal.