Town close to deal with drone company

Riverhead officials took an initial step Tuesday toward renting a runway to a company seeking to build solar-powered drones that can beam Internet service.

The Riverhead Town Board voted 4-0 to schedule an Oct. 20 public hearing on a proposal to let Brooklyn-based Luminati Aerospace LLC use a runway at the town-owned Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Luminati, which town officials said is backed by a well-known, multibillion-dollar Web company, recently bought the 16.3-acre site of Skydive Long Island, which currently rents the runway from the town.

Supervisor Sean Walter on Tuesday hailed the sale as a major development for Riverhead. Town officials have been trying for 17 years to attract a major company to the 2,900-acre Enterprise Park at Calverton, a former Grumman Corp. flight-test site.

"This is, to my way of thinking, the biggest single thing that's happening on Long Island right now," Walter said of the sale.

Walter declined to name the company backing Luminati. Company representatives are scheduled to meet with the town board at a work session Thursday.

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Town officials are considering a 10-year lease that would charge Luminati $31,810 per year, subject to annual cost-of-living increases. Luminati would have the option to extend the lease for two 10-year terms.

Walter said the company planned to operate out of Skydive Long Island's headquarters and build another structure on the site within five months. He said Luminati would agree to take over maintenance and repair of the town-owned runway, which he said is in need of repaving that could cost $500,000 to $1 million.

Luminati would control the runway, and other enterprise park tenants seeking to use it would have to coordinate takeoffs and landings with the company, Walter said.