Community members oppose Calverton Aviation & Technology's plan to develop the former...

Community members oppose Calverton Aviation & Technology's plan to develop the former Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant at an IDA meeting on Oct. 23 Credit: John Roca

Riverhead officials are pursuing zoning changes that would prohibit any future cargo jetport at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, following community backlash over previous plans for the site.

The proposed amendment prohibits both commercial passenger and cargo airports, and flight instruction in certain development zones, which includes the EPCAL property. The proposal also restricts two runways on the site from being listed on aviation maps.

The town board will hold a public hearing on the proposed zoning change Tuesday at 2 p.m.

Officials recommended the changes after the town’s Industrial Development Agency on Oct. 23 voted to deny financial assistance to venture group Calverton Aviation & Technology as part of a $40 million land deal. The IDA denial paved the way for the town board to declare the contract “null and void" the following day.

Residents have vehemently opposed the venture group's plans for a cargo jetport at the facility since 2022. The former U.S. Navy property includes a 10,000-foot and a 7,000-foot runway once used by Grumman Corp. to test military aircraft before it was closed in 1996.

“It was definitely something we wanted to shore up,” said councilman and supervisor-elect Tim Hubbard. “When we put the property back up for sale, that way, the buyer knows that this is what is allowed and what is not allowed up there.”

Future owners, lessees or applicants would be required to file covenants agreeing to the runway restrictions, according to the draft law.

Town officials have indicated they plan to re-market the property and have called for an appraisal. The town board voted 5-0 on Nov. 9 to spend $7,500 on an appraisal for a property that was not publicly identified. 

That information is "confidential,” town attorney Erik Howard said at the meeting. “It’s in contemplation of a type of litigation.”

The company hinted at litigation after the Oct. 24 town board vote. Through a spokesperson Wednesday, the company called the town’s decision “rash and legally deficient” and said Calverton Aviation & Technology “is resolute in its intent to fully vindicate its legal rights including for specific performance of its contractual right to purchase and develop the EPCAL property.”

As of Thursday, Calverton Aviation & Technology has not filed a notice of claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, against the town.

Company spokesman Gary Lewi said Wednesday the company would have agreed to airport restrictions set by the town. 

"What the town seeks to codify was exactly what the developer was proposing to commit to in covenants and restrictions," he said.

In 1998, the federal government gave the EPCAL property to the town to stimulate economic development and offset the loss of tax revenue and jobs caused by the Grumman closure. Riverhead officials in 2016 rezoned the property to Planned Development, which allows for a range of uses to promote redevelopment at the site.

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