A move to appoint an outspoken critic of the Riverhead Industrial Agency to the agency’s board of directors was shelved — at least temporarily — by the town board yesterday.
A resolution appointing Larry Simms of South Jamesport to fill a vacancy on the board for a term ending Dec. 31, 2021 was pulled from the review packet for Tuesday night’s meeting.
New applications for the unpaid position have been received, according to Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. Smith and Deputy Supervisor Tim Hubbard handled the interviews and met with seven applicants. Two more applications have since been submitted. Board members yesterday agreed without discussion to set the Simms resolution aside for now.
Simms, a frequent attendee of IDA meetings, has criticized the agency for providing benefits — partial property tax abatements, mortgage tax and sales and compensating use tax exemptions — for many of the projects supported by the agency.
He has also criticized the board and its executive director for, he says, approving project benefits without doing adequate due diligence or cost-benefit analyses. The IDA is incentivized to approve projects because it is “self-funded,” Simms has argued.
“Just like a shark needs to keep swimming to breathe, the IDA needs to keep handing out benefits to stay in existence,” Simms has argued.
Simms, a founder of Save Main Road, an organization formed in 2012 to oppose “The Village at Jamesport” commercial development, said he is not opposed to economic development.
“I fully support the IDA’s mission of attracting business to Riverhead and creating good jobs,” Simms said in an email yesterday. “With my extensive business background and skills, I believe I can help the agency better determine: a) whether subsidy applicants genuinely need assistance, and b) whether projects will deliver a net benefit to taxpayers.”
Simms said he has spent most of his career in manufacturing and marketing commercial construction products.
He said he is glad the town board is interviewing all candidates “so they can be sure they’re selecting the most qualified person.”
Riverhead IDA chairman Tom Cruso and executive director Tracy Stark-James were in the audience during the work session but offered no comment on the IDA appointment.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said after the meeting she was not sure she could support Simms for the IDA post because of his consistent opposition to “what seems like every” IDA application. “And he almost got into a fistfight with an applicant after one meeting. I had to call police,” she said. Giglio referred to an incident in January 2017 when Simms got into an argument with representatives of Atlantis Holdings and J. Petrocelli Development, after the IDA board approved renewed tax breaks for the aquarium and new benefits for the Preston House across from the aquarium. “He’s so passionate about his opposition,” Giglio said.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct the number of applications submitted for the vacancy and the number that were submitted after the board concluded its interviews.
This story is free to read thanks in part to the generous support of readers like you. Keep local news free. Become a member today.