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Town Board expected to vote soon on revised plan to move EPCAL sale forward

A proposal to temporarily lease property at the Enterprise Park at Calverton to Calverton Aviation & Technology is likely to be on an upcoming Riverhead Town Board agenda, according to Riverhead officials who took part in a forum on the proposal Tuesday night. 

The forum at Town Hall was moderated by deputy town attorney Annemarie Prudenti, community development director Dawn Thomas and outside legal counsel Frank Isler. 

About 20 people attended the three-hour forum in person and others participated virtually via Zoom. 

No Town Board members were present. The group EPCAL Watch submitted 20 questions in advance, many of which contained additional questions. A number of speakers said the proposal was confusing.

The town’s efforts to sell 1,643 acres to CAT for $40 million have been hampered by the town’s inability to gain subdivision approval from the state.

The most recent proposal, first unveiled at a Feb. 10 Town Board work session, allows the sale to advance prior to the completion of subdivision. The board planned to vote on the new proposal on Feb. 15 but pulled the resolution after receiving more than 50 letters or emails asking for more time to review the plan.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar gave CAT until the end of business on March 3 to submit a letter stating it is in support of the town’s proposal. She said they submitted the letter Friday. 

“Today, the attorney for Triple Five, Chris Kent, provided this office with a letter of agreement stating Triple Five is moving forward and providing the Town with the assurances necessary to support and move forward with a joint application to transfer the EPCAL property to the IDA,” Ms. Aguiar said in a press release.

“The entire Town Board will vote on this effort in the near future.”

The new proposal goes as follows: The Town Board, acting as the Community Development Agency, would vote to make application to the Industrial Development Agency to transfer title to all of the acreage it owns at EPCAL to the IDA in order to “facilitate the sale” and transfer of approximately 1,643 acres at EPCAL to CAT. The transfer is pursuant to the terms of the 2018 agreement of sale between the town and CAT.

Under the current proposal, obtaining subdivision approval will be up to CAT, not the town.

The IDA, under what’s known as a “lease and project agreement,” would lease the three lots CAT aims to buy, to CAT, and lease the rest of the town property —such as water and sewer facilities — to the town. 

CAT would in turn lease the land until the sale is finalized.

The Town Board in November 2018 voted 3-2 on the sale of the property in a split vote, with then-supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and then-councilwoman Catherine Kent opposed. The deal has yet to be finalized.

The town acquired the EPCAL property from the Navy in 1998 as a way of making up the jobs and taxes lost from when Grumman left the area, Ms. Thomas said.

CAT has said it plans to bring aviation and technology jobs to EPCAL, although Triple Five Group, which owns 75% of CAT, is best known for building shopping malls, such as the Mall of America in Minnesota. 

Attorney Ron Hariri asked if the town would look into the financial trouble CAT has had in other areas along with charges it has faced in federal court.

Ms. Prudenti said those questions are more appropriate to ask of the Town Board. 

She said she does not have experience in reviewing financial data.

Linda Nemeth of Calverton asked how long the lease would be. Ms. Prudenti said the IDA would set the parameters of the lease agreement. 

Kathy McGraw of Northville said the process seems like the town is looking to do an “end run” around state regulations. Town officials said that is not possible.

The sale to CAT required them to undergo a “qualified and eligible sponsor” process to show that it has the money and wherewithal to buy and develop the property as proposed. Mr. Isler said CAT will need to “recomfirm” that it is “qualified and eligible” under the IDA process.

Officials say the IDA also will mike CAT undergo a similar process.

The 1,643 acres have been off the tax rolls since the Navy left, town officials say. The sale would put that land back on the tax rolls.

CAT has agreed to pay for the cost of the lights for ballfields at Veterans Memorial Park at EPCAL, and it has also agreed to pay an additional $1.5 million for recreation. The town did not have a cost estimate for the Veterans Memorial Park lights.