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EPCAL Watch Coalition to Riverhead Town: Drop the sale

“The time has come that good governance requires you to make a decision whether or not to terminate the EPCAL deal with the Ghermezian family and Daniel Preston,” read a letter from the EPCAL Watch Coalition, signed by its coordinator, Rex Farr of Calverton. The letter was presented to the Riverhead Town Board Tuesday, and summarized by John McAuliff of EPCAL Watch.

Calverton Aviation and Technology, the company seeking to buy land from the town, is controlled by Triple Five Group, which is headed by the Ghermezian family.

Mr. Farr wrote that a letter dated July 20, 2020, from the New York State Department of Conservation “must be regarded as a game-changer, not a procedural hiccup.”

That letter, which was first reported by Riverhead Local last month, is a notice of incomplete application that the DEC sent the town regarding its subdivision application, and indicates that Riverhead’s Water District lacks permits for many of the water district extensions it has built. That, in turn, could jeopardize the town’s attempts to secure state approval for a planned eight-lot subdivision at EPCAL that is needed in order to sell CAT 1,643 acres of land there for $40 million.

The DEC notice also required the town to show that the Suffolk County Water Authority has no objection to Riverhead serving the area, although SCWA is on record as objecting to the Riverhead Water District serving EPCAL.

“If time-consuming and costly actions must be undertaken by the town before it can even consider closing on the EPCAL contract, what is the reason to remain encumbered by a relationship with a purchaser that can no longer be considered qualified and eligible because of substantial change in its financial situation and inability to produce a real development plan?” the EPCAL Watch letter asked.

Instead, the coalition suggested the town go back to the 50-lot subdivision it originally planned for EPCAL.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the cost of infrastructure would be paid for by town residents under that deal.

The eight-lot subdivision — which breaks out three lots to sell to CAT — would leave the cost of infrastructure, such as water, sewer and roads, to the developer.

Mr. McAuliff suggested it be written into the contract to require the developer to pay the infrastructure costs.

Supervisor Yvette Aguilar said the town is in contract with CAT and needs to address the subdivision. She said the town will need to have its attorneys do an assessment of the situation as far as how much work will be involved and the cost of addressing the issues raised by the state DEC.

When Mr. McAuliff suggested that the town pull the plug and start anew, Ms. Aguiar said, “That is always a possibility.”

The supervisor said of CAT, “If we ever go forward, they will be fully, fully vetted.”

She said her primary goal is to preserve the 1,050 acres of grasslands that were added into the deal by former supervisor Sean Walter when Daniel Preston’s Luminati Aerospace sought to buy the property.