Riverhead Town board members are headed back to the table with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to try and fight for a plan for Enterprise Park at Calverton that could provide the most jobs and economic development.
Former Congressman George Hochbreukner met with the town board and outlined the history of the former Grumman facility and said the plan was to always give the parcel to the Town of Riverhead for economic development.
"It's an important asset for the town," he said. "We need private sector jobs, putting people back to work and helping the local economy. The important consideration is jobs, jobs, jobs."
The maximum extent of economic development at EPCAL should be sought, he said.
Hochbreukner said he made a commitment to former Senator John Glenn, the House of Representatives and the Senate that the property would be used for economic development. "That was the deal," he said.
And, Hochbreukner added, it's necessary to look at the big picture; 3000 acres were already dedicated to for preservation, with the Otis Pike preserve already dedicated to environmental concerns.
Of the 6000 acres, 2900 were to be used for economic development. "We need the jobs," Hochbreukner said.
Also in the town's corner, Hochbreakner said, is Empire State Development Corporation Long Island's Regional Director Andrea Lohneiss.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said it is in the town's best interest to be granted lead agency status in the environmental review process.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the contention has centered on the subdivision map, despite the fact that the town has complied with adopting Pine Barrens ordinances, as agreed upon.
"It's a shell game," Giglio said. "It's very frustrating, because the taxpayers have spent a lot of money to subdivide this parcel, and the need is there. Developers want to be in Riverhead, and we have all this land but we can't provide it to them."
Walter said it's important to consider the perspectives of the DEC. "Unless we look at each other's perspectives, we're no different than the guys in Washington that don't seem to be able to get along anymore."
That said, Walter said, he believes additional meetings with the DEC are necessary, because the current subdivision plan has the town left with only 500 developable acres, down from the originally proposed 800, a number that "severely restricts" development, with 33 potential lots. The town has lost "a third" of valuable developable lots on Route 25, he said -- the area most appealing to developers.
As it stands, Walter said, a number of lots have been pulled from Route 25, which are the most desirable for economic development, as well as from Grumman Boulevard.
Originally, the DEC wanted to close the runway at EPCAL, Walter said, but it was determined that Skydive Long Island brings a cash and visitor infusion into the area.
The DEC, Walter said, does not want the town to develop on any grassland at EPCAL. "At one point they said if we took down a blade, we'd have to put a blade up."
The issue, Walter said, is that the land was meant for economic development and the current subdivision map, with four "disjointed" distinct subdivisions, is problematic and does not create a "world-class" industrial park.
Instead of one central gravity flow for the sewer, the current configuration could potentially mean four spearate systems, making it "much more expensive to sewer," Walter said.
"I don't say this with any disrespect to environmental groups or the DEC," Walter said. "We can either create a world-class subdivision that protects the environment, or we can create a world-class bird sanctuary that has an industrial subdivision."
If nothing is done, the area will be forested, the supervisor said.
Walter said he supported going back to the DEC for further discussion. "I think we're giving up too much land," he said.
Giglio said perhaps the board should consider selling the land for $44 million to individuals hoping to create a polo facility at the site.
Walter said the subdivision process has to be completed before any polo proposal can be considered.
"We can't sit by and let the DEC take away 30 perent of our land without a fight," said Councilman George Gabrielsen.
Dunleavy pointed out the area is generating no income now and 33 lots is better than nothing.
Councilman Jim Wooten said the town has "bent over backwards" to work with environmentalists. "They keep biting at the apple and there's nothing left but the core."
Walter said it's critical to keep the parcels on both sides of the road from the future YMCA to the ballfields. To accept the current subdivision plan, he said, "would be giving away the store."
The board agreed to go back to the DEC for further discussion.