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Riverhead urged to reject $40M Enterprise Park deal

Jason Stern of the Weber Law Group talks

Jason Stern of the Weber Law Group talks about the firm's solar farm proposal for Enterprise Park at Calverton at a meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. Credit: Jean-Paul Salamanca

Residents and two businesses asked the Riverhead Town Board to reject the proposed $40 million land deal for the Enterprise Park at Calverton and to consider two new offers — for a solar farm project and a drag strip.

The board voted 5-0 Wednesday night to adjourn a hearing on the property to another date amid questions about the change in partners for Calverton Aviation and Technologies LLC — a venture group formed with Calverton-based Luminati Aerospace seeking to purchase the site to expand Luminati’s aviation and technology operations.

During the public comment period that followed, representatives from two other companies asked the board to consider their offers for the EPCAL site.

Jason Stern and Morton Weber of the Melville-based Weber Law Group — which represents renewable energy developer sPower — called for building a solar farm on the 2,900-acre property between Grumman Boulevard and Route 25 that was the home of the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant before operations ceased in 1994.

Citing sPower’s qualifications, experience with development, reputation and intentions for the property, Stern requested the board allow the firm to formally make their proposal at their next regular meeting Feb. 6.

sPower was ready to make a “substantially higher” offer than that from Calverton Aviation and Technologies, Stern said, but declined after the meeting to discuss how much more than the proposed $40 million. sPower officials also were “prepared to move quickly to develop this property, he said.

“In making use of the EPCAL site for solar power, the town will be making an investment in a clean, environmentally friendly and beneficial use which will significantly and reliably add to the town’s tax base,” Stern told the board.

sPower owns and operates a 109-acre, 20-megawatt solar farm on Middle Country Road and a 35-acre, 9-megawatt facility on Edwards Avenue, both in Calverton, and a 9.5-megawatt solar operation in Shoreham. Combined, those facilities have generated an estimated $1 million-plus in revenue for both communities, Stern said.

John Consoli, vice president of the group Long Island Needs a Drag Strip, also asked the board to consider his group’s offer to turn the developable land into a quarter-mile dragstrip for motor sports races, which the group estimates could generate $9.7 million in “increased regional economic activity.”

“We haven’t had a dragstrip [on Long Island] in almost 20 years,” Consoli said after the meeting. “It’s time to bring it back. The time is now.”

Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said Wednesday the board could not entertain new offers for the EPCAL property because it is still in negotiations with Calverton Aviation and Technologies.

Residents, voicing concerns and frustration about that proposal, asked the board to reject the offer.

“The current board is under pressure to accept a flawed contract despite another last minute change in the identity of the principal partner,” said John McAuliff, a Riverhead resident and member of The Coalition Against EPCAL Housing. “This is too important a decision with too murky a history to be steamrolled at hearings with limited and ever changing information.”

Craig Dahlgren, a Calverton resident who lives close to the EPCAL site, said while he preferred no development take place there, he felt looking into solar options “would alleviate a lot of the issues that myself and maybe some other people in town had about the subdivision.”

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