Lots of noise, few insights at EPCAL presentation

A presentation by an attorney for Calverton Aviation & Technology Wednesday night was cut short when a boisterous, overflow crowd of local residents accused the company of planning a massive jetport at the Calverton Enterprise Park.  

CAT attorney Chris Kent didn’t get far into the company’s presentation before the crowd at the Hotel Indigo began booing, heckling and yelling at him, holding signs with messages that included “No Cargo Airport,” “No Jetport” and “Stop the Warehouses. Save Our Farms.” 

Mr. Kent denied that CAT was planning to build a “jetport,” though he acknowledged after the meeting that aviation will be an “accessory” to other uses.

CAT is seeking to buy 1,643 acres from the town for $40 million. Wednesday’s meeting came at the request of the town Industrial Development Agency. It was a public forum offered by CAT, not an official public hearing of the town board or the IDA. Riverhead and CAT have filed a joint application with the IDA for tax benefits.

CAT officials have confirmed to the town and the IDA that within five years of receiving all necessary development permits, it will complete the construction of at least one million square feet of development, in a mix of buildings ranging in size from 100,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet. 

In its development plan, CAT said its full development costs for the project will be $247 million. 

At an IDA meeting in September, 2022, CAT representatives made references to aviation use at the property and to “jetports.” At Wednesday’s meeting, Mr. Kent reiterated that a jetport is not part of their plan. 

After the meeting he said that “aviation will be an accessory to some of the principal use at the site.” He said that is unchanged from the current zoning. 

Speakers on Wednesday were nearly unanimous in their opposition to the proposal.

“It should be understood by the IDA and it should be understood by the Town Board, that Riverhead doesn’t want this project to go forward,” said Riverhead resident John McAuliff, to a roomful of cheers. 

He said CAT’s plans from last September clearly show a jet cargo port. That Sept. 21, 2022 meeting is still available for viewing on the town’s website. 

At a recent Town Board meeting, Supervisor Yvette Aguiar noted that there is nothing in the contract with CAT that prevents someone from buying the land and immediately selling it for a higher price. 

“The bottom line is, we don’t believe you,” Rex Farr, who coordinates EPCAL Watch, told Mr. Kent. 

Kelly McClinchy, of Manorville, who is a member of the Navy’s Restoration Advisory Board, said that some of the land eyed for development at EPCAL is contaminated.  

The RAB oversees groundwater quality on land once owned by the US Navy.

Mr. Kent said afterwards that he wasn’t surprised by the reaction. 

“I told them we were going to be doing a lot of listening tonight,” he said. “They don’t want to hear what we’re proposing.” 

While Mr. Kent said there is no jetport associated with their proposal, CAT does plan to use the existing railroad spur at EPCAL.