Members of a coalition formed with the stated purpose of preventing residential development within the Calverton Enterprise Park urged the Riverhead Town Board last night to take action against housing at EPCAL before entering into any agreement to sell land to any buyer, including Luminati Aerospace.
Rex Farr, longtime president of the Calverton Civic Association and coordinator of the recently formed Coalition Against EPCAL Housing, said the coalition has not taken a position on the proposed sale to Luminati but believes “it is essential that the letter of intent and any other agreement or contract with Luminati must explicitly forbid housing construction at EPCAL now or in the future.”
The town signed a letter of intent with Luminati Aerospace LLC last week. The letter of intent states that Luminati wants to purchase most of the remaining town-owned land within the enterprise park for $40 million. The parties have 30 days from the signing of the letter of intent to agree “in principle” on the terms of a “definitive agreement,” after which the town must determine pursuant to state law, that Luminati is a “qualified and eligible sponsor” for the purposes of buying and developing the site.
Luminati Aerospace CEO Daniel Preston told RiverheadLOCAL on March 28 he has absolutely no plans to build any kind of housing at the site.
“Housing has no place in an aviation manufacturing park,” he said.
But members of the new coalition, as well as Democratic supervisor candidate Laura Jens-Smith, have called for the zoning code change regardless of Luminati’s stated intentions, citing the possibility that Preston’s plans may change or he may sell the site to another entity.
Farr was joined by representatives of the Group for the East End, the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the Northville Beach Civic Association in his call for the town to condition any sale to Luminati on a covenant banning residential uses at the site and for the town to repeal zoning code provisions adopted in 2016 that allow residential uses on the site under certain conditions.
The zoning, adopted last August after an approximately four-year process that included, following hearings, revisions to the EPCAL reuse plan and generic environmental impact statement, was not intended to allow residential development at EPCAL except as a “supportive use.” The code allows for the development of “a limited number of attached residential housing units located on the same lot and in support of a principal permitted use.” It limits the residential units to 300 for the entire site. That limit can be exceeded by special permit of the town board. The code requires the applicant for a special permit to build “supportive residential units in excess of the 300 housing unit” to “demonstrate that the residential units are an essential and integral component of such principal use, i.e. scientific research or development facility or the like.”
“Housing is detrimental, unnecessary and costs our community,” said Phil Barbato of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition. It contradicts the purpose of EPCAL, which is economic development,” he said, asking the board to remove the residential use from the code.
Charles Sclafani of Wading River spoke to the objections raised by members of the new anti-housing coalition. He said his house was directly in the flight path of the Grumman fighter jets being tested in Calverton. “It was a great thrill to watch them,” he said. “I’m hoping someday my grandchildren get to see Luminati’s drones do the same thing.”
The people objecting to the site’s zoning “should have been here … when this thing was passed — not today when we have a buyer,” he said.
Addressing the board members he said, “If you, because certain people … decide for political purposes to put a pin in the balloon, then you guys don’t belong up there. You’re here for the town, not for the few who want to derail this town from moving forward.”