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Attorney with ties to cannabis industry to be appointed to Riverhead IDA

The Riverhead Town Board on Tuesday is expected to appoint Lee Mendelson of Aquebogue to a vacant seat on the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency.

Mr. Mendelson, an attorney with an office in Bridgehampton, brings a unique resume to the position. He is part-owner of a state-licensed cannabis testing lab in Warwick, N.Y. Closer to home, he serves on Riverhead Town’s business advisory committee as well as the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Mr. Mendelson said he is the general counsel to the marijuana testing lab and owns “a tiny piece of it.”

“My partner is an associate professor at Columbia who I’ve know for 30 years,” he said. “I obviously don’t go there, but I handle the legal work. I review contracts and things like that.”

He said the lab does not grow, process or sell marijuana.

“But the state requires that it be tested so it’s safe for the general public,” he said.

The IDA’s mission is to attract new businesses to the town, which it can do with tax incentives such as real property tax abatements, sales and compensating use tax exemptions and mortgage recording tax exemptions. The Riverhead IDA was created in 1980.

“I’m involved in the community and I think if you are going to make a life here you should be involved,” Mr. Mendelson said. “If you have something to offer you should try and offer it.”

The vacancy was created when former IDA member Bob Kern was elected to the Town Board in November.

The IDA board of directors recommended the Town Board fill the vacancy with Mr. Mendelson.

“The Board of Directors of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency has found that Lee Mendelson presents with the qualifications necessary to meet the obligations of a board member,” the draft Town Board resolution to fill the IDA vacancy states.

The Town Board briefly read the draft resolution on Thursday and can formally vote on it at Tuesday’s meeting. 

“I worked with him on the Business Advisory Committee,” said Councilman Tim Hubbard. “His business sense is very good. He’s an attorney and does a lot of work on construction-type deals and he’s a very knowledgeable, very smart guy and I think he’s going to be a huge asset to the IDA.”

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar added: “He possesses a vast amount of knowledge about business, finance, economic development, planning, government and business operations. He’s experienced, he’s professional and he’s well respected in the community.”