Representatives of a proposed addiction research and rehabilitation facility at the Calverton Enterprise Park were hoping to get some resolution on their pending site plan application today at Riverhead Town Hall. Instead they left with unanswered questions and facing the looming possibility that their proposal would be subject to a full environmental impact study.

Peconic Care, in partnership with Northwell Health, is looking to build a 160-bed addiction research and inpatient rehab facility on a 95.6-acre site within the Calverton Camelot subdivision. The site, owned by Engel Burman Group, is located adjacent to the active runway, which is subject to a license agreement between the town and Luminati Aerospace.

Peconic Care would use 30 of the nearly 96 acres and dedicate the remaining acreage for passive recreation use. The town board held a public hearing on the site plan application in August.

“This is teed up and ready to go,” Peconic Care planning consultant Chick Voorhees told board members.

But the town board wasn’t ready to drive the ball.

Supervisor Sean Walter is urging fellow town board members to require an environmental impact statement for the proposal, following the recommendation of town planning staff.

Walter believes the use is not appropriate for development at the edge of an active runway. He said the applicant should identify and explore alternative sites — outside of EPCAL.

“There’s no possible way you can co-locate on an airport,” Walter told the applicant’s attorney, former town councilman Chris Kent, and CEO, Andrew Drazen.

“As long as you have beds there, I’d oppose it,” he said.

“You can’t do addiction research without beds,” Drazen told him.

Kent argued that the proposed use was ruled a research facility by the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals in 2014, when Peconic Care petitioned the ZBA for a zoning code interpretation; a research facility is a use permitted as of right under the zoning at the enterprise park.

The town completed a generic environmental impact statement before it adopted the zoning at EPCAL, Kent argued, and another environmental impact statement should not be required.

But Walter was unmoved. He said he’s worried that the development of a residential facility of any nature on that parcel, adjacent to an active runway, will interfere with the town’s efforts to redevelop the enterprise park.

Two prospective buyers the town is negotiating with would not be happy with such a use there, Walter said, and Luminati Aerospace has already indicated it would object to the use.

“This may hamstring us,” he said.

“Approving this could actually violate the runway use agreement we’ve already signed with Luminati,” Walter said. “We can’t do anything that violates that agreement.” 

Walter has been an enthusiastic proponent of Luminati Aerospace, which bought the former Skydive Long Island property at EPCAL in 2015 and plans to manufacture next-generation, solar-electric unmanned aerial vehicles for  “a Fortune 250 company” that’s funding its research and development project at EPCAL.  Luminati is already moving into a larger facility at EPCAL. Its aim, according to company founder Daniel Preston, is to develop ultralight UAVs that  will be capable of cruising earth’s stratosphere perpetually. The R&D project is designed to develop aircraft that will bring internet connectivity to remote regions of the globe, but Preston says the aircraft’s military applications are obvious. He told RiverheadLOCAL last year he plans to seek defense contracts for the aircraft Luminati will build at EPCAL — effectively returning the defense aerospace industry to Calverton.

Walter says he’s not interested in any proposed uses at EPCAL that would interfere with Luminati’s plans.

Councilman Tim Hubbard was the only other board member to side squarely with the supervisor today.

“My concern is the sale of the EPCAL property,” he told the group. “EPCAL is the single biggest thing I’m going to see in my lifetime in this town. It’s the biggest thing in this town that I’m going to deal with. If anything has a possibility of [negatively] affecting that sale, lowering the value of that sale… I can’t support it. I totally agree we need this facility but I don’t think this is the right location,” Hubbard said. “It’s the wrong spot — too close to the runway.”

Councilman John Dunleavy lamented that the town has owned the EPCAL site — the former Navy-owned home of Northrop Grumman, which built and tested military aircraft there — for 20 years.

“And we haven’t done anything with it yet,” he said.

“Really, John?” Walter interjected. “We’ve spent three-quarters of a million dollars to subdivide it so we could sell it.”

Councilman James Wooten said he needed more time to review planning staff reports before he’d make a decision on the environmental review.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she had “pushed for the town board to file an Article 78” to challenge the ZBA’s code interpretation on this application.

But then she questioned what the difference is between a residential uses at an inpatient research facility and the 300 units the town approved in the zoning.

“The 300 units already included in the zoning are not going to affect” industrial and aeronautic uses? Giglio asked.

Walter said after the meeting the zoning would allow limited residential uses to support the industrial park and all of those uses would only be built away from the runways.

“It’s going to elevate the town,” Drazen said. “We’re going to provide 100 jobs. We’re going to pay taxes.”

“Have you met with Luminati?” Walter asked. 

Kent said they had not but he would set up a meeting.

“My position would change potentially if you got a favorable letter of support from Luminati,” Walter said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor and attorney. Her work has been recognized with numerous journalism awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She was also honored in 2020 with a NY State Senate Woman of Distinction Award for her trailblazing work in local online news. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.