Two wealthy real estate investors from Buenos Aires, Argentina – a father and son –met with Legislator Ed Romaine, R-Center Moriches, Councilman John Dunleavy and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio Thursday afternoon to present their idea for establishing a world-class polo center at the town’s Enterprise Park at Calverton.
Describing what they want to create as an equestrian village capable of attracting top-level international matches, the complex would be built on the same 755 acres where Riverhead Resorts had proposed erecting a major resort complex – complete with an indoor ski slope – before running into financial problems and being forced by the town to abandon its plans last November.
The proposal by Jorge Justo Neuss, and his son, German Neuss – which they said is only preliminary, with financial details as yet to be worked out – calls for seven individual polo fields, each measuring 350 meters long by 180 meters wide, with one of the fields serving as a stadium with a 10,000-seat grandstand. There would also be a clubhouse, exercise track and a stadium for jumping events.
But several months ago, in , Supervisor Sean Walter said that the 755 acres zoned for recreation no longer makes sense, although it remains on the books.
Walter did not attend Thursday’s presentation, explaining he wanted to first consider a written proposal, which, he said, the Neuses had promised but had not yet delivered.
“You don’t want to elevate something like this in the public's mind before its more fully developed,” he said, which is why, he explained, he had turned down Dunleavy’s request to have the presentation made at an official work session attended by the entire town board earlier in the day.
In addition, the plan calls for selling 400 lots adjacent to the polo fields to polo players and polo pony owners, who would build stables for their horses, along with short-stay living quarters for themselves, grooms and trainers.
They emphasized, however, that the living units would only be occupied during polo season from May through October, which means, they said, that no school age children would be living there to put a burden on the Riverhead Central School District.
The father and son are partners in a real estate firm that owns and manages office building in Buenos Aires and Manhattan. They are also founding partners of the International Polo Organization, based in Geneva, Switzerland, which stages professional polo matches in major cities around the world.
They said they are enamored with setting up in Riverhead because of its convenience for polo players and spectators living in the Hamptons and New York City.
They noted that polo has emerged as a popular sport for televised broadcasts sponsored by such well-heeled companies as Rolex and Mercedes Benz, which, they said, would be another source of revenue for the complex.
The 755 acres at EPCAL, which the Neuses said they could purchase for cash, currently carry the zoning category of "planned recreation." According to Rick Hanley, the town’s planning director, that zoning only allows residences to be built in conjunction with a golf course, with a limit of three houses per golf hole.
Hanley, who met with the Argentines following their presentation, said he needed to study the proposal in detail before rendering an opinion on whether it meets current zoning or would require some change in current codes.
This is not the first time that polo fields have be proposed for EPCAL. Ten years ago, a real estate investor from Boca Raton, Fla., had presented one somewhat similar plan but failed to follow through.
Town to take over armory
The New York State Armory on Route 58 is on target to become the town’s new police headquarters as well as home to the Riverhead Justice Court, according to Walter, citing a plan that has been in the works for some time.
After several years of delay, resolutions have now been introduced in Albany, which, if approved as expected, would transfer ownership of the armory to the Town of Riverhead, perhaps as early as next month.
State Senator Ken LaValle, R–Port Jefferson, introduced a measure in the Senate to effect the transfer; Assemblyman Dan Losquadro, R–Shoreham, introduced a similar measure in the Assembly.
Losquadro's legislative proposal notes that the 5.9-acre parcel on which the armory sits had belonged to the Riverhead water district until 1953, when it conveyed the property to the state’s Department of Military and Naval Affairs “in consideration of $500.”
Walter said that the next step would be for the town board to hire an engineering firm to come up with a plan and costs for retrofitting the structure for use by the police and the court. He said his wish, for cost reasons, is to be able to do the minimum that has to be done to make the building work for the police and court.
Walter said that after the police and the court move out of current police headquarters next to Town Hall, town units, including the accounting department, now operating out of what is known as “Town Hall West” on Pulaski Street, would move into what would be former police headquarters.