Councilman Tim Hubbard says he will not support development of the Enterprise Park at Calverton as a cargo jetport.
“I will never let that happen. Not on my watch, and I am watching closely,” Hubbard wrote in a guest column submitted to RiverheadLOCAL.
“There is no way that I or any other responsible public official would ever approve any plan that would have this type of significant negative environmental impact on our town’s quality of life,” wrote Hubbard, who is the Republican candidate for town supervisor this year.
In a phone interview today, Hubbard acknowledged that the use proposed by Calverton Aviation & Technology, which is in contract to buy the site from Riverhead Town for $40 million, may well comply with the site’s existing zoning. If so, it is unclear how the Town Board could legally stop the proposal from advancing.
The buyer has proposed developing the site with 10 million square feet of industrial space, most of it as logistics and distribution buildings. According to an application for financial benefits filed jointly by CAT and the town with the Riverhead IDA in September 2022, the logistics and distribution buildings will used by tenants to receive cargo delivered to Calverton by plane, sort the cargo, and ship it out by tractor-trailers.
CAT’s attorney, Chris Kent of Farrell Fritz, has repeatedly said the proposed use fully complies with the site’s existing zoning.
“It could comply,” Hubbard said in a phone interview this afternoon. “But it’s not anything we’re ever going to let happen,” he said.
Hubbard said the town will require covenants on the property to prevent the undesirable use.
“From what I understand, they’re going to be interested in doing those covenants,” he said today.
“This has to get through the IDA first. And quite honestly, I’m not sure that’s going to happen,” Hubbard said.
He also said he expects CAT will present a modified plan at the IDA’s hearing on the application. “That’s my understanding, but I can’t verify it,” Hubbard said. He did not provide additional details.
Kent could not immediately be reached for comment.
Hubbard said he does not think the modified plan will require an amendment to the existing joint application to the IDA made by CAT and the Town of Riverhead. He said he doesn’t think the modified plan “violates the original application,” but added, “until I actually see it myself — seeing is believing.”
If the deal with CAT doesn’t come to fruition, Hubbard said, the town should consider a different approach.
“Instead of hitting the home run and selling the entire piece of property, I prefer to go back and look at putting up individual parcels and selling them off that way,” Hubbard said.
“I would never say no to selling it as a whole,” he said. “But I think we’d be better off us keeping the runways and possibly controlling them better for what they can and can’t be used for. But I have to look into that more, too, because I’m not sure,” Hubbard said. “I’m going to look at it in depth to see what it would cost us to maintain them.”
Prior to signing a letter of intent with Luminati Aerospace in April 2017, the town was pursuing a 50-lot subdivision of the vacant industrial land inside the enterprise park.
The town in December 2017 approved a contract of sale with Calverton Aviation and Technology — a company owned by Luminati Aerospace and a Triple Five subsidiary, subject to a finding that the purchaser was a “qualified and eligible sponsor” for purposes of the State Urban Renewal Law. After nearly a year-long vetting process, the Town Board in November 2018 voted to approve Calverton Aviation and Technology as a qualified and eligible sponsor.
Hubbard voted against approving the contract in December 2017 but for approving CAT as a qualified and eligible sponsor in November 2018. He defends both votes and bristles at criticism accusing him of flip-flopping on the issue. The “qualified and eligible” vote was a different vote, on different issues, Hubbard argues.
CAT requested the town scrap the 50-lot subdivision and instead sell the land in two large lots, so the town revised the subdivision, creating a proposed eight-lot subdivision instead. The eight-lot subdivision splits the bulk of the land — 1,643.8 acres — into two lots that will be sold to Calverton Aviation and Technology. The town will retain the other lots, which include the Henry Pfeiffer Community Center site, the Grumman Memorial Park site, the site of the town’s sewage treatment plant and a parcel within the Pine Barrens core preservation area that will be preserved.
Concept plans presented by CAT during the qualified and eligible process and at subsequent Town Board meetings did not include large warehouse buildings along the runways or any mention of using the runways for cargo shipments to the EPCAL site. A 2019 concept plan showing large buildings along both runways was obtained from the State Department of Environmental Conservation through a Freedom of Information Law request. The most recent plan, which shows about 8.5 million of logistics and distribution buildings along both runways, was first publicly presented at a Sept. 21, 2022 Riverhead IDA meeting.
Riverhead Democratic candidates seeking town office this year have come out against CAT’s proposal, which has been widely panned by area residents, civic organizations and environmental advocates. Democratic supervisor candidate Angela DeVito and her running mates for town council seats have called on the current board to terminate the contract with CAT.
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