Triple Five has submitted maps and drawings to the State Department of Environmental Conservation depicting 10 million square feet of development spread among 10 huge buildings along the length of both runways at the Calverton Enterprise Park.
The buildings depicted on the drawings labeled “proposed development plan” range in size from 200,000 square feet to 1.4 million square feet.
The document also depicts new taxiways and 400-foot-wide “aircraft parking areas” between the runways and the buildings.
The 19-page document, prepared by BLD Architecture and titled “Calverton Habitat Review” (see below) was provided by the State DEC through a Freedom of Information Law request submitted by former councilwoman Barbara Blass. Each page is dated April 4, 2019 and bears the caption “555 Calverton.”
Two of the pages are labeled “FAA Design Guidelines” and depict runway and taxiway dimensions and technical specifications.
The runways and most of the vacant land surrounding them comprise the 1,644 acres that are the subject of a $40 million sale by the Riverhead Community Development Agency to Calverton Aviation and Technology. A Triple Five affiliate is the majority owner and managing member of CAT.
CAT has not formally presented this or any other proposed development plan to the Riverhead Town Board or other town officials.
“This looks like an airport,” a flabbergasted Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said when shown a copy of the document Monday morning. “I don’t know — I can’t tell what this could be, but it looks like an airport.”
The contract of sale bars the development of a commercial passenger airport at the site, she noted.
“They need to come forward and tell us what their plans are — what this is,” Jens-Smith said, adding that the intensity of the development depicted on the maps is much greater than what was presented during the qualified and eligible process. “I’m anxious to hear their presentation.”
Councilman Tim Hubbard agreed.
“We’d like to have a presentation as a board,” he said in a phone interview Monday night. “They said they were going to. I’d like them to come in and talk to us about it.”
Hubbard said the document “shows movement” and “shows that they’re looking to build out, so that’s a good thing.” Without seeing the document for himself, he said he could not comment further.
“I don’t think that they’re looking to do an airport,” he added. “Every discussion we’ve had has always been about development, tech services,” Hubbard said.
Calverton Aviation and Technology’s attorney Chris Kent yesterday denied that the document represented a development plan, despite four of the 19 pages being labeled with the words “proposed development plan.”
“I’m not sure it represents anything at this point,” Kent said in a phone interview. “Nothing formal has been filed with the DEC so I’m not sure who turned that over to you or even how they had that,” he said.
“We’re looking for the DEC to agree and accept our proposed habitat protection and preservation plan before putting forward any development plan, so whatever you have there is a very initial concept of how we’re going to lay it out. That’s not an official map of any kind,” he said.
“That’s basically a proposed method of presentation and I know we’re still working on it because we havent even finished our habitat protection and preservation plan yet,” Kent said. “That is just an initial layout to show what the property — how the property’s laid out,” he said, characterizing the layout as “a work in progress.”
The DEC confirmed Monday the document was not part of any formal application. It was presented at “an informal pre-application meeting between DEC staff (Environmental Permits, and the divisions of Water and Natural Resources) and representatives from the Triple Five Group to discuss general jurisdictional concerns about this proposed project,” according to an agency spokesperson.
The DEC has not conducted any reviews relating to the Calverton Habitat Review document, the spokesperson said.
The document “was part ouf our due diligence, something prepared in the course of our due diligence,” Kent said.
“We havent developed any plan for presentation yet,” he said. The document submitted to the DEC is “not a finished product,” according to Kent, “so I don’t think it is something that should be put out there as if this is our plan.”
Kent would not discuss the possible intended uses for six buildings in excess of 1 million square feet adjacent to the two runways.
The uses will be “anything that’s permitted under zoning” and consistent with the State Environmental Quality Review findings statement adopted by the town board in 2016, Kent said. The developer would not build anything without having tenants in place, he said.
Each of the four 1.4 million-square-foot buildings has an area of 35 acres. Along with two smaller buildings — a 200,000 square-foot building and a 400,000-square foot building — they are positioned along the 10,170-foot eastern runway, which remains an active runway.
The 7,000-foot western runway is currently classified as inactive. The map labeled “Proposed Development Plan” shows a proposed new taxiway and four buildings adjacent to it: two at 1.1 million square feet, one 900,000-square-foot building and one 700,000-square-foot building.
For perspective, all of the buildings on the original Grumman manufacturing site, taken together, totaled 1 million square feet. The largest of those structures, Building 6, is 300,000 square feet.
The size of Triple Five’s American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is 3 million square feet.
The largest aircraft manufacturing plant in the country, Boeing’s Everett, Washington factory — where the company assembles its 747, 757 767, 777 and 787 aircraft — is just shy of 4 million square feet.
Local civic leaders expressed astonishment at the scope of the plan depicted in the Triple Five document.
“It’s shocking,” Wading River Civic Association president Sid Bail said. “I don’t think anyone anticipated that something like this was the desirable future Triple Five had talked about.”
“This just takes your breath away,” said Rex Farr, coordinator of the EPCAL Watch coalition, when presented with the drawings Monday. “I mean we’ve all been wondering what they were going to propose here, but I don’t think anyone was thinking ‘airport’ and this certainly looks like an airport,” he said.
“Our analysis and development proposals will conform to the obligations provided in the purchase agreement and prescribed by zoning and adopted findings, all of which prohibit commercial airport uses,” Triple Five director of development Amy Herbold said in an email Monday evening.
The contract of sale prohibits the establishment of a commercial passenger airport as well as services to the public such as fueling, hangaring, tie-down and parking, aircraft rental or maintenance, and flight instruction.
Blass, whose FOIL request to the DEC turned up the document, said she re-read both the Planned Development Zoning Use District which controls land use at the enterprise park site and the State Environmental Quality Act findings statement, — both adopted in 2016 — and neither prohibit an airport.
Blass said she submitted records access requests to the town planning department and the DEC because she was “seeking verification” of representations made by the town during the subdivision review process about the DEC changing previously approved mitigation measures and conditions designed to protect the sensitive habitats.
Blass said she was taken aback by the document containing the various maps and drawings.
The maps depict “restricted habitat” areas, both grasslands and pine barrens. According to the document, there are 4.2 million square feet of “restricted grassland in conflict with proposed buildings” and 4.7 million square feet of “restricted pine barrens in conflict with proposed buildings.”
The document also includes a map depicting “proposed new restricted grassland area” of 4.2 million square feet and “proposed new pine barrens area” of 4.7 million square feet.
L.I. Pine Barrens Society executive director called the creation of “new pine barren area” a “preposterous notion.”
“This is completely inconsistent with the Pine Barrens protection plan and environmental laws,” Amper said. “I think they’re making stuff up as they go along.”
Herbold said the document is a draft and “one of many proposed development plans that CAT commissions when conducting its due diligence on developable properties.”
When the company finalizes its initial development plan, it will present the concept at a town board work session prior to formally submitting the plan to DEC, Herbold said.
“Until that time, anything you may see or hear is a work in progress.”
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