At the State of the Town address on Wednesday, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter praised the “amazing strides” in downtown development projects in the past year and looked toward closing a multimillion-dollar deal at the EPCAL site in Calverton.
With Riverhead’s $54.4 million 2017 budget balanced, and the town in a position to refinance its Community Preservation Fund debt due to new state legislation and a November vote to extend the program, Walter told town officials and supporters at the Birchwood Restaurant in Riverhead that the town is “on firm financial footing and it is time to start rebuilding our fund balance.”
Walter said the town hopes this year to close on the EPCAL deal. Officials are negotiating with Suffolk Industrial Corporation on the acquisition of 600 developable acres. If successful, Walter said the deal would add $43 million to the town’s general fund.
Walter called for putting the money into a special debt service account to pay off debt related to a $52 million landfill reclamation project dating to the early 2000s, a move he said could roll back tax increases from 2015 and 2016.
“The town board cannot spend the $43 million without providing tax relief to the residents and businesses of the town of Riverhead,” Walter said.
He took aim at New York State and county officials for pushing unfunded mandates he said were costly to the town. Specifically, Walter said the state’s attempt to change its storm water discharge general permit would add “significant costs” to the town’s budget to ensure compliance with monitoring requirements. The proposed regulations involve the cleaning of storm water catch basins. Suffolk County’s 2007 study requiring an upgraded sewer treatment plan in Riverhead cost the town $681,828 in 2016 to stabilize taxes for its sewer district users, Walter added.
The town filed a notice of claim in December asking the county to pay roughly $2 million in sewer stabilization funds for 2016 and 2017.
Walter highlighted several pending projects in downtown Riverhead, including a proposed 12,000-square-foot, 117-unit mixed-use apartment building for workforce housing on East Main Street and McDermott Avenue. He added that downtown growth required the town to “move quickly” to create new parking lots along East Main and West Main streets.
“I am truly grateful for all that we have accomplished together,” Walter said. “However, there is still more work to do before Riverhead reaches its full potential.”