With a contract deadline for filing an approved subdivision map for the EPCAL site just 90 days away, the Riverhead Town Board is expected tomorrow to authorize the preparation of additional maps and the revision of three existing maps in connection with its applications to the State DEC and the Suffolk County health department.
The work will be done by L.K. McLean Associates of Brookhaven, the firm that prepared the eight-lot subdivision map granted preliminary approval by the Riverhead Planning Board on June 20, 2019. The additional work will will cost the town a minimum of $9,000 — more if field work is needed to complete the job.
Some of the new maps will “identify and highlight areas of study or potential development and non-development areas,” according to the agreement expected to be on the board’s agenda for approval tomorrow night.
Other new maps will depict information contained in the Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the town in connection with its original, 50-lot subdivision plan, prepared by VHB Engineering in 2016.
A copy of the resolution authorizing the work and the addendum to the town’s agreement with L.K. McLean Associates was obtained by RiverheadLOCAL. The resolution was not in the board’s packet distributed and discussed publicly at last week’s work session and the agenda/resolutions for tomorrow night’s meeting have not yet been posted on the town’s website. The resolution and attached agreement were circulated among board members after last week’s work session, according to Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.
In order to gain final planning board approval — a condition of the town’s contract of sale with Calverton Aviation and Technology — the town must obtain a Wild Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act permit from the State DEC and a land division approval from the Suffolk County health department.
Riverhead applied for the health department approval on Jan. 17, a spokesperson for the Suffolk County health department said in a Feb. 14 email. Suplemental information was submitted Jan. 24, the spokesperson said.
“SCDHS staff’s review of the application is underway, but has not been completed.”
As previously reported by RiverheadLOCAL, the town applied for the DEC permit Sept. 3. The DEC responded with a Notice of Incomplete Application on Sept. 17. The town filed a supplemental memorandum in support of its application on Nov. 25 but the DEC has not deemed the application complete, so it will not move forward with review.
In its Notice of Incomplete Application, the DEC told the town the application was lacking required information, including information detailed by the DEC in “comments throughout the DSGEIS and FSGES process” (referring to the supplemental environmental impact statement accepted as complete and final by the town in March 2016.) The town’s response — that development impacts would be addressed when permits are sought at the development stage, rather than the subdivision stage — “constitutes a form of segmentation” prohibited by the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the notice states.
The town must also revise the Comprehensive Habitat Protection Plan it prepared for the 50-lot subdivision “in light of the new development proposal” and must update the plan “to reflect the current status of the ecological communities of concern at this site,” the DEC wrote in the Notice of Incomplete Application.
“Once the planned use of the subject property has been described in sufficient detail, the Department will determine whether a Part 182 Incidental Take permit will also be required for this action,” the DEC said in the notice.
A Jan. 16 FOIL request to the town seeking documents submitted to the DEC in response to the Notice of Incomplete Application did not result in the production of any documents.
The DEC, responding to an inquiry by RiverheadLOCAL, said in a statement on Feb. 12, “The Department of Environmental Conservation has met multiple times with the Town of Riverhead regarding the Notice of Incomplete Application for the Wild Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act Permit. DEC has not received any formal applications or resubmissions from the town since the notice was issued.”
The Riverhead town attorney’s office responded to the Jan. 16 FOIL request on Feb. 14, stating that “the town is preparing its formal response to the subject Notice of Incomplete Application.” The town anticipates production and submission of the formal response within approximately three weeks, Deputy Town Attorney Dan McCormick wrote in the Feb. 14 email. But he said the town might not release the records to the public because the may be exempt from FOIL as inter-agency materials.
Without the required approvals from the DEC and the health department, the town can’t get a final subdivision approval from the planning board — and without the final subdivision approval, the town can’t file a final subdivison map with the county clerk by May 15, as required by its contract with with CAT. The mid-May date is one year from the date the purchaser gave the town notice of its intent to proceed to closing, following the completion of its due diligence period (time to allow the purchaser to investigate site conditions.)
Can the town meet the contract deadline?
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who owns a permit expediting business, expressed skepticism, given the DEC’s stated requirements.
Giglio was not happy when she recently learned that the DEC application was filed in September, three months after the preliminary approval by the planning board. And she was incensed to learn that the health department application wasn’t filed until Jan. 17.
“The applications should have been ready to go and filed right after the planning board’s preliminary approval,” Giglio said today. “We were told ‘it’s moving along, it’s moving along” but obviously it was not. It’s ridiculous, it really is.”
Giglio laid blame on former supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, who was an opponent of the sale to CAT, voting against its qualified and eligible sponsor application and voting against the contract of sale.
“She stalled it,” Giglio said.
“Absolutely not,” Jens-Smith responded. “We moved forward as quickly as possible as soon as CAT gave us notice to proceed,” she said in an interview. “We knew we were on a timeline and had to get it done.”
She said the town had meetings with the health department prior to the application actually being filed, and hired H2M to handle the design work to show the town could supply the subdivision with public water.
Jens-Smith said she kept the board “updated on everything” and “if Jodi didn’t know what what was going on, then that’s her fault for not asking questions.”
The two were often at odds during Jens-Smith’s tenure as supervisor and may be facing each other in November’s general election. Giglio, a Republican, is running for the Second Assembly District seat. Jens-Smith is one of two declared candidates for the Democratic nomination. Should she get her party’s nod, she and Giglio will go head-to-head in November.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, who defeated Jens-Smith in the town supervisor election last year, when asked why the health department application wasn’t filed until last month said, “It had to get done and it wasn’t done. It got done after I got in. That’s all I will say.”
She said the town is “working diligently” to satisfy the DEC and obtain the required approvals. “They gave us a road map,” Aguiar said. Having the additional maps prepared is part of what’s needed, she said.
“The bottom line, the primary goal is to ensure the 1,050 acres of protected land remains protected forever — regardless of who owns the land,” Aguiar said.
If need be, the town will ask CAT for an extension to obtain the final subdivision approval, she said.
The contract says if the town doesn’t meet the deadline for the final subdivision, either party can cancel the contract. There has been no indication from the purchaser that it would do so.
Chris Kent, the attorney for CAT, said in an interview last week he was not informed by the town of the DEC’s Notice of Incomplete Application nor had he been given an update on the town’s progress. He said his client wants to purchase the property and develop it in accordance with the development plan described in the contract and has businesses interested in locating there.
It seems unlikely that a majority of the town board would look to pull the plug on the $40 million deal.
“I’m going to work to keep moving the town forward,” Aguiar said. “That’s what I’m focused on.”
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