Laura Jens-Smith, a candidate for Riverhead Town supervisor, called for officials to be more transparent in the process of selling the long-dormant Enterprise Park at Calverton and proposed leasing the property if officials cannot find a “qualified” business to purchase it.
Jens-Smith, a Democrat, said the property was “always meant to be an economic generator” and criticized officials for not providing more information about potential deals at the site.
“Nothing really has happened,” she said of the site during a news conference Monday. “We need to attract middle-class jobs.”
The federal government gave the property to the town in 1998 after the Grumman Corp. facility, which leased the land, closed. About 492 acres of the property were sold to a developer in 2001, and there are about 20 businesses on that parcel.
The remaining 2,300-acre property, which is owned by the town, has been vacant for 19 years, with the exception of a runway that is used by Luminati Aerospace. Multiple businesses have proposed using the site for various ventures, such as an indoor ski facility and an equestrian complex, but no deals have been completed.
Supervisor Sean Walter said the town board expects to “make a big announcement” about EPCAL at a meeting Thursday night, but could not elaborate because of a nondisclosure agreement signed with the group officials are negotiating with.
Officials discussed selling land to Melville-based Suffolk County Industrial LLC, but those negotiations stopped about 12 weeks ago, Walter said.
The property — which is listed for sale with the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield — is in the process of being zoned as a subdivision for commercial, industrial and mixed use, which would allow employers to build up to 300 housing units for their workforce.
Jens-Smith said officials should create a plan for screening deals, establish an outside committee to assess proposals and install a “strict calendar” for completing transactions.
If officials cannot find a vetted, “well-established” firm to sell to, they should “lease it as of now, or you just leave the land here and you develop the rest of the town,” Jens-Smith said during the news conference at the Henry Pfeifer Community Center.
Walter said he would consider a lease proposal, but noted the board “never does contract negotiations in the public” eye because it would decrease officials’ bargaining power.
“The real estate broker comes to the town board periodically to give us updates [about interested parties],” Walter said. “I don’t how much more transparent we can get.”