Riverhead Planning Board members take up the resolution approving the preliminary plat for the EPCAL subdivision. Photo: Denise Civiletti

An eight-lot subdivision that will allow the Town of Riverhead Community Development Agency to sell 1,644 acres of vacant land at the Calverton Enterprise Park gained preliminary approval today from the Riverhead Planning Board.

The subdivision divides the 2,107-acre tract into eight parcels, three of which the town will sell to the purchaser pursuant to a $40 million contract of sale with to Calverton Aviation and Technology signed in November.

The CDA will retain title to the remaining five lots. Lot one is a 292-acre parcel in the Pine Barrens Core Preservation Area. Lot two is a municipal park, improved with ballfields. Lot three is the site of Grumman Memorial Park. Lot four will be used as a recharge facility for the EPCAL wastewater treatment plant. And lot five is the site of the Henry Pfeifer Community Center. Lots six, seven and eight are the lots being sold to Calverton Aviation and Technology.

The planning board granted approval to the preliminary subdivision plat subject to comments by the town’s engineering consultant in a May 15, 2019 report and subject to a requirement that the map be revised to state that “site plan review or yield determination” for lots six, seven and eight will be calculated based on applicable town zoning, DEC regulations and the findings statement adopted after an environmental impact analysis for the site.

The purchaser, an affiliate of Triple Five Group, has not yet disclosed detailed plans for development of the site. The contract of sale incorporates an “intended development plan” that calls for the development of at least 1 million square feet of commercial and industrial space during “phase one” with “primary emphasis on the development of aviation, technology and supportive uses.”

Northville resident Kathleen McGraw today questioned how the town planning board could act on the revised application without sending it to the Suffolk County Planning Commission for review.

The resolution adopted today refers to the approval of the 50-lot subdivision by the county planning commission, she said in an interview after the meeting.

“But it does not appear that the Town of Riverhead has obtained the approval of the Suffolk County Planning Commission for the eight-lot map, which is entirely different from the 50-lot map the commission approved,” McGraw said.

“This seems to be a backhanded way to avoid seeking approval of the eight-lot map by the planning commission,” she said.

The town’s lawyer Frank Isler told the board at its March 21 meeting that the amended map can be treated as a revision of the previous map the planning board had before it, which it had never acted on.

“All we’ve done is remove lots, really,” Isler said. “You’re dealing with the same sketch plan, only different lines. That’s why you can do this as a revision.”

Some residents have objected to the planning board’s review process on the eight-lot subdivision map.

At the May 2 public hearing on the eight-lot map, former longtime planning board member Barbara Blass said the planning department’s file was so incomplete, the planning board should not act on the application.

Blass, who served more than 19 years on the planning board — six of those as its chairperson before her election to the town board in 2001 — said she submitted a Freedom of Information Law request on April 8 and learned that there was no amended application, no amended environmental assessment form and no planning staff report in the file.

Blass urged the board to treat the eight-lot subdivision as a new action.

She also faulted the map for omitting “critical baseline information” regarding habitat protection areas, wetlands and the like, which she argued misrepresented existing conditions.

At today’s meeting, McGraw complained that the proposed resolution was not available online for public review prior to the meeting.

Planning administrator Jefferson Murphree said the resolution was posted on the town’s website Monday, however it was not posted with the planning board meeting agenda; instead it was posted in a special section of the website devoted to EPCAl documents.

McGraw also complained that the subdivision map was not available for inspection by the public at today’s meeting. She said after the meeting that she asked Murphree for it and he told her to file a Freedom of Information Law request.

Murphree could not be reached for comment after the meeting ended.

“I am incredulous the way this is being handled,” McGraw told the board. She said the approval was being “railroaded.”

That provoked a response from Planning Board Chairman Stan Carey.

“Overall this whole process has been well-vetted,” Planning Board Chairman Stan Carey said. “Whether you like or dislike the proposed sale is not relevant. It’s a subdivision. The sale has no bearing on this subdivision. It’s like any other eight-lot subdivision,” he said.

“We act on the advice of our attorney,” he said. “Everything has been done appropriately.”

The CDA must obtain approval from the Suffolk County health department and the State Department of Environmental Conservation before the planning board will approve the final plat. Under the contract terms, the town must file a final plat with the county clerk within one year from the date the buyer gave the town its notice to proceed to closing, concluding its due diligence period.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.