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11/21/13 8:00am
11/21/2013 8:00 AM

Preparing for the unknown in any circumstance is challenging indeed. Go too far and you overprepare, creating unnecessary work. Don’t go far enough and you’ll always be left wondering, “What if we’d done more?”

And readying Enterprise Park at Calverton to market to the public is about as hard a task as any facing Riverhead right now.

So what’s to be done when the firm conducting the EPCAL planning study asks for an additional $162,390 to complete its work — a 35 percent cost overrun on the $464,000 originally allocated?

The Town Board OK’d the additional funding (see related story). It’s nearly impossible at this point to tell what will be right and what will be wrong in the long run but at this point we agree with the decision, reluctantly.

The time required to negotiate a proposal acceptable to the Department of Environmental Conservation surprised everyone. And the town did ask planning firm Vanesse, Hangen, Brustlin to do additional work, for which it now has to pay if it wants the final product.

But VHB should not be asking for additional money to cover expenses that are strictly limited by stipulations in the original contract — for example, the number of people they can bill the town for sending to public meetings. They’ve been around the block and surely knew when they signed the contract how many people it takes to properly represent their clients at meetings.

The town and VHB both knew long ago that more money would be needed to complete the work and the town should have parceled out the payments in smaller installments. So VHB’s request for such a large lump sum all at once seems unfair, leaving some — at the very least, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who voted against the allocation — with understandable sticker shock. And, coming two weeks after Election Day, the timing of the request could also be considered curious by some.

But the fact remains that this study is vital to the plans the town has started at EPCAL, making the land marketable in ways previously impossible — especially in light of recent legislation passed in Albany.

It would be a shame to be left wondering years from now, “What if we had just paid that extra $162,000” in 2013 to finish that study?

We just hope we won’t have to revisit this question in 2014.

FILE PHOTO | The southern entrance into the already-developed part of EPCAL, referred to as the industrial core.

FILE PHOTO | The southern entrance into the already-developed part of EPCAL, referred to as the industrial core.

11/20/13 11:00am
11/20/2013 11:00 AM
Calverton EPCAL sign

MICHAEL WHITE FILE PHOTO | One of two signs marking the EPCAL entrance along Route 25 in Calverton.

The Riverhead Town Board voted 4-1 Tuesday to pay an additional $162,390 to Hauppauge-based planning firm Vanasse, Hangen, Brustlin for work on the environmental study and subdivision at the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio cast the lone vote against the measure.

The board hired VHB in February of 2011 for about $460,000.

The town in 2011 also signed separate contracts with RKG Associates for $47,500, for an EPCAL marketing study, and with LK McLean Associates for$74,900, for a boundary and topographic study of EPCAL.  The costs will come from the nearly $1.9 million the town received from leasing EPCAL runways to park junked cars owned by insurance companies after Hurricane Sandy, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

“After reviewing the documents and after careful consideration, I can’t support this,” Ms. Giglio said in casting her vote, adding later that she thinks the contract will end up costing even more.

Councilman John Dunleavy voted against the original contract, but voted for the additions Tuesday night.

“I voted no for spending the $465,000 when we first started this, but I don’t want to derail this project,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “The Town Board did vote for it, I don’t want to say forget about it, let’s go back to zero again.”

Mr.  Walter said the additional payment is due to the fact that VHB has to complete additional tasks that were not anticipated when the contract was signed in 2011. Those additional tasks were outlined in a four-page letter to the town from Kevin Walsh, VHB’s Long Island managing director of operations.

Mr. Walsh said in his letter “negotiations with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have consumed the better part of the last 15 months, requiring extensive work in negotiating the configuration of the subdivision.”

This, in turn, resulted in additional meetings between DEC staff and VHB.

“The DEC added about $75,000 to the cost,” Mr. Walter said. “We never anticipated the number of meetings we’d need with the DEC. And every meeting, they redesigned the subdivision … It was meeting after meeting after meeting.”

But Mr. Walter said the plan would not be as far along as it is without those meetings. The town cannot begin selling smaller individual lots at EPCAL until the proposed 50-lot subdivision is complete and approved, he said.

And once that happens, he said, the town will be able to derive revenue from the property.

“It’s not a big price to pay to get to where we are going,” he added.

Other costs included the town’s hiring of former Congressman George Hochbrueckner as a consultant on the EPCAL plans.

“VHB brought him up to speed on issues,” Mr. Walter said.

In addition, the town’s proposal to try and lure a new Federal Aviation Administration facility to EPCAL, the inclusion of the bike path in the plans, and a presentation at the Long Island Regional Planning Council also were unanticipated when the contract was approved in February 2011, Mr. Walter said.

The scoping document, which outlines what issues should be studied in the environmental impact study of the project, also ended up covering far more issues than expected, the supervisor said.

The EPCAL studies are about 90 percent done and VHB has indicated that a public hearing on the draft environmental impact study for EPCAL could take place in March, Mr. Walter said. The environmental study must be completed before the subdivision can be approved.

Mr. Walter said in an interview that the town has known for more than a year that the EPCAL study would take longer than anticipated and would cost more than anticipated. And while he admitted to being unhappy that more costs are necessary, he said he does not anticipate further spending increases, and he said the end result would be worthwhile.

“We’re over two years into this,” he said in an interview. “This could potentially be a billion dollar buildout. It’s the largest commercial subdivision in New York State, as far as I’ve found.”

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11/19/13 6:45pm
11/19/2013 6:45 PM

liveblogRiverhead Town Board members are voting Tuesday night on spending another $162,390 in order to complete a planning study at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, which is being done by Hauppauge-based planning firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, or VHB.

The Town Board originally entered into an agreement with VHB in February of 2011 for a $464,000 study, which is being used to subdivide land the town has owned since the 1990s.

But the town has used the firm for more work than was planned for in the original contract, Supervisor Sean Walter said.

Board members are also planning to vote on the 2014 budget, which calls for a 3 percent increase in spending from this year.

Reporter Tim Gannon is reporting live from the meeting.

Click below to follow along.

Click here to read tonight’s agenda.


03/19/13 5:30pm
03/19/2013 5:30 PM


The Riverhead Town Board approved a resolution Tuesday night to amend the town’s contract with VHB, a consulting firm that’s been working on the town’s subdivision and planning study at the Enterprise Park at Calverton property.

The amendment allows VHB to represent clients before the town. That is so long as the firm is not involved in projects in EPCAL, and so long as VHB employees keep information they get from their town work confidential.

VHB representatives have said that since the EPCAL study has taken longer than expected, “their inability to provide services to potential clients” in Riverhead Town has caused the firm to “suffer significant loss of business opportunities,” according to the resolution.

VHB officials had said if the amendment was not approved, the firm would cancel its contract with the town.

The Hauppauge firm’s planning work is costing the town about $500,000.

Supervisor Sean Walter said the town couldn’t afford to lose VHB’s services in the EPCAL study at this point.

“We’re one year away from finishing it now,” he said. “If VHB quits, we’d be two years away.”

In addition, the board formally amended its rules and procedures to remove a ban on booing that it approved two weeks ago.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon reported live from the meeting.

Click below to read a recap, and see the full agenda and resolution packet below that.

March 19, 2013 – Agenda by rnews_review

March 19, 2013 – Packet by rnews_review

11/16/12 3:30pm
11/16/2012 3:30 PM
Calverton, Riverhead, Splish Splash

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | A lawsuit settlement would pave the way for a mixed-use development on this Route 25 and Manor Road land near Splish Splash in Calverton.

The Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the Greater Calverton Civic Association have taken the position that the Riverhead Town Board should not agree to a proposed settlement with Calverton Manor, LLC that would result in reverting to zoning that contradicts recommendations of Riverhead’s 2003 master plan.

The master plan recommends the adoption of “rural corridor (RLC)” zoning along Route 25 east of Fresh Pond Avenue that would “reduce future expectations of development and market potential for retail and service uses along the [Route 25] corridor.”

RLC zoning that was subsequently adopted by the Riverhead Town Board provides for a “limited range of roadside shops and services that are compatible with the agricultural and rural setting along major arterial roads, such as … Route 25.” The proposed stipulation for settlement with Calverton Manor, LLC provides for reverting to prior Business Center (BC) zoning, which provides for development of much greater density and intensity than what is recommended in the town’s master plan.

The proposed settlement would allow for a footprint of up to 100,000 square feet for buildings and up to 40 “dwellings units.”

The North Fork Environmental Council supports the position taken by the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the Calverton Civic Association. It is the opinion of the NFEC that an agreement by the Riverhead Town Board to the proposed stipulation would significantly alter the rural character of the Route 25 corridor in Calverton and would undermine the integrity of the town’s master plan and the zoning that was subsequently adopted to conform with the master plan.

It is the position of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter that the current RLC zoning is too restrictive and that the type of development proposed by Calverton Manor, LLC will increase the town’s tax base.

Mr. Walter is also of the opinion that if the town does not agree to the proposed settlement that the entire comprehensive master plan could be in jeopardy and may require a complete update. The North Fork Environmental Council disagrees.

Increasing the tax base in this manner also brings a great deal of cost in terms of supporting infrastructure and services — police, fire, etc. Such development in the name of increasing the tax base has been proved to increase property owners’ tax burdens, not decrease them, in every town to the west. In addition, such a change in zoning goes against both the word and the spirit of the master plan. It’s not perfect but its protections have well served the people of Riverhead. Any significant changes should not be undertaken without exhaustive research and discussion among all parties.

Because Mr. Walter has accepted significant amounts of campaign contributions from the principals of the Calverton Manor proposal, the NFEC recommends that, in order for the Riverhead Town Board to reach an objective and unbiased decision with respect to this matter, Mr. Walter should remove himself from any further deliberation or decision of the proposed settlement. Furthermore, the Riverhead Town Board should request from the town attorney’s office relevant case law that would help them reach a fair and deliberate decision.

Mr. Toedter is president of the North Fork Environmental Council, a Mattituck-based environmental advocacy group.