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Riverhead says years-old letter threatens pending $40M EPCAL sale

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar wants the Suffolk

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar wants the Suffolk County Water Authority to rescind a 2009 letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation so the town can sell the Enterprise Park at Calverton property. Credit: Randee Daddona

Riverhead Town officials have not ruled out suing the Suffolk County Water Authority over a 2009 letter the agency sent to the state that officials allege has created confusion and is halting the pending sale of the Enterprise Park at Calverton property.

In a letter dated Jan. 19, Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the October 2009 correspondence from the agency to the state Department of Environmental Conservation has been "improperly interpreted" by the water authority.

The letter opposed the town’s application for a public water supply permit to extend its district boundaries to the 2,853-acre area in Calverton where the EPCAL subdivision resides. The water authority wrote that the area was within its assigned service territory, and that it was better equipped to provide water there than the Riverhead Water District.

The DEC informed the town in December that it could not approve the property’s subdivision unless the two parties resolve the matter.

Aguiar said in a Jan. 20 interview that the news took the town by surprise.

"In the past, we’ve gotten grants to hook up water at the property," Aguiar said. "And our water district has always hooked them up, not the Suffolk County Water Authority."

Venture group Calverton Aviation and Technology is negotiating with the town to purchase 1,600 acres of land at the property for $40 million. The land purchase would allow minority partner Luminati Aerospace LLC to expand its operations.

Riverhead officials want the Suffolk agency to rescind the 2009 letter within 10 days of receiving the town’s correspondence so the town can proceed with selling the property. If not, Aguiar said, the town may pursue litigation against the water authority.

Aguiar said the situation was another example of the Suffolk agency attempting to take control of the town’s water distribution.

"This is a way of strong-arming us to take over our water district," Aguiar said. "And if they take over our water, it will affect our pressure, it would increase prices and we would have to pay a hydrant tax to the water authority. That would cost $320,000, which the taxpayers would have to pick up, along with increases that we would never control."

Jeffrey W. Szabo, the water authority’s CEO, said in a Jan. 21 statement that his agency received the town's letter and shared it with its board of directors.

"We have no interest in taking over the Riverhead Water District," Szabo said. "Our only interest is providing safe drinking water to people who need it as quickly as possible."

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