EPCAL should be leased by the town for development in sections, not sold off to one buyer, as has been the town’s strategy, Democratic town supervisor candidate Laura Jens-Smith said at a press conference this morning.
Jens-Smith slammed incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter for what she said is a lack of transparency in the process of vetting prospective buyers for the remaining developable town-owned land at the Calverton Enterprise Park.
She called for a public process, with vetting undertaken by a committee that included people from “inside and outside town hall.” She said the town must “establish clear credit standards for any transactions about to transpire and a strict calendar for completion of transactions.”
Officials, she said, should “refrain from public comment on embryonic ideas.” The town should only deal with qualified businesses and established firms, Jens-Smith said.
“We’ve been told for a year there was a buyer for EPCAL, then told eight, nine months ago there’s a deal with Suffolk Industrial. And we haven’t heard anything since,” Jens-Smith said. “Is the deal still on? Or is it dissolved? And if it isn’t happening, how did Supervisor Walter get it so wrong?”
Jens-Smith expressed concern about “rumors that Luminati may be offered the land at EPCAL,” which she said “raises a lot of questions.”
Luminati Aerospace purchased the Skydive Long Island property in 2015 — a site located in the industrial core of the site the town sold to developer Jan Burman in 2001. The town entered subsequently enter into a runway agreement with Luminati giving the company exclusive use of the town’s active runway on the site.
“Luminati is a startup firm we really know very little about,” Jens-Smith said.
“Luminati unveiled a plane last year they claimed was designed and built here, when in reality it was created in Germany,” she said.
After Luminati held a press conference and test-flight demonstration of its ultralight solar-powered aircraft at EPCAL last June, the German company PC-Aero issued a press release in July to say the plane was designed and built in Germany.
Luminati spokesperson Jeremy Freeman said today the company licensed intellectual property from PC-Aero and then made extensive technological modifications. Luminati acknowledges that the original fuselage was built in Germany, where Luminati engineers remained on-site for three months. The modifications were made in Calverton, Freeman said. Newsday reported the arrangement with PC-Aero last year, after the press conference and test flight at EPCAL, but before the German company issued the press release Jens-Smith handed out at her press conference today.
Freeman declined comment on the prospect of Luminati making a bid to buy the town’s EPCAL acreage.
Jens-Smith said the plans Luminati has announced so far seem “pie-in-the-sky from a startup.”
Walter said Luminati is anything but pie-in-the-sky. He said the company has invested a great deal of money at EPCAL, postulating it has spent more money in the last year than any other company in the town, “except maybe Peconic Bay Medical Center on its expansion plans.”
Walter also noted that Luminati has inked a deal with DuPont. Luminati is working with Dupont to develop technology to make body armor fabrics that are a fraction of the weight of current products, Freeman said. The companies announced the agreement last Monday.
DuPont will work with Luminati to test fabrication technology that will be presented to the Defense Department in April, Freeman said. Newsday first reported the Dupont deal last week.
Walter said the town has always been open to leasing all or portions of the EPCAL site instead of a sale. No one has come forward to lease the land there for development, he said.
The town supervisor said it was “fortuitous” that Jens-Smith held a press conference about EPCAL today because the town has big news coming about EPCAL either late this week or early next week.
“The town is going to make a big announcement,” Walter said. “We have been in negotiations but had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The nondisclosure is going to end I believe Thursday and there’s going to be a resolution as to who the purchaser is,” Walter said.
“We will have a signed letter of intent giving the parties 90 days to sign a contract. Then there will be a public hearing on the contract,” he said.
Walter would not disclose the entity that’s been negotiating with the town, but he said Suffolk Industrial, had ceased negotiations. As recently as Feb. 15, in his annual state of the town speech, the supervisor said the town was negotiating Suffolk Industrial.
Town officials in September had announced that Suffolk County Industrial Development was offering the town $45 million for the town’s remaining developable land at the site — about 600 acres. Officials also said at the time a second developer had made a similar offer. Both prospective purchasers were brought to the table by Cushman Wakefield, a real estate broker the town hired to market the site.
Jens-Smith is skeptical that any deal will be made.
“For years now, EPCAL has been used every two years as a campaign prop, a political football,” the candidate said.
Jens-Smith also criticized the new EPCAL zoning adopted by the town, which allows for up to 300 residential dwelling units at EPCAL. The dwellings would be allowed on a site that has a principal commercial-industrial use and where the dwellings are intended for use by employees or contractors of the commercial-industrial user. Town officials liken the use to the residential uses allowed at Brookhaven National Lab.
Walter was incredulous when he heard Jens-Smith held the press conference inside the Pfeiffer community center.
“You shouldn’t hold a political press conference in a government building,” Walter said. He called recreation superintendent Ray Coyne to find out how that happened, he said and learned that the candidate’s application for use of the facility said it was “for an informational meeting,” not a campaign press conference.
Walter said it was “poor judgment” for the candidate to hold a political press conference on town property.
“It’s not even a building that’s open. The town had to pay a town employee to open the building and sit there while she held her press conference,” he said. “I would never dream of using town property that way.”
The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.