The future of Enterprise Park at Calverton was once again on the agenda at Riverhead Town Hall on Thursday.
Kevin Walsh of VHB Engineering came before the board at Thursday's work session to give an update on the planning studies done so far regarding the EPCAL subdivision plan -- and tell board members where the plan currently stands.
The goal initially, Walsh said, was to provide for the maxium amount of economic development the EPCAL parcel could handle while at the same time balancing the wish of environmental groups for contiguous open space.
Initially, the preliminary subdivision plan called for development consisting of 41 lots on 800 acres, with preservation of 1360 acres of woods and grassland, as well as 250 acres of grassland habitat.
When discussions began "in earnest" with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Walsh said the DEC was "not happy" with the loss of existing grassland and identified 750 acres they considered suitable for development. But, Walsh said, those parcels were spread all over the EPCAL property and did not provide for contiguous open space or efficient development.
In addition -- and critical -- Walsh said, the DEC's plan "eliminated lots on Route 25" that the town board felt were important to potential developers.
After VHB submitted an alternate subdivision sketch, Walsh said the DEC came back with a compromise; 500 acres of grassland was the most recent goal, Walsh said.
As the EPCAL subdivision plan currently stands, the layout includes 38 lots of development -- the town is down three, Supervisor Sean Walter said -- with 610 acres of development proposed, 1550 acre of preserved land, and 495 acres of existing grassland preserved. The plan would eliminate lots on the southwest portion of the westerly runway and preserve most of the easterly runway, Walsh said.
In addition, the plan retains the lots on Route 25, he said and allows for not only the 495 acres of existing grassland but for 65 additional acres by clearing acres the DEC has said are available for such an option.
"This is where we're at," he said.
The plan, Walsh said, was introduced to the DEC a few weeks ago; the DEC, he said, followed up with a request for VHB to identify all of the existing grasslands, with an eye toward preserving as much grassland as possible. That information, he said, was provided last week.
So far, Walsh said, the DEC has not given its response to the latest subdivision plan.
"My concern is we've gotten no reaction," he said. "We though we had achieved what they were looking for."
Walter said it's time former Congressman George Hochbrueckner, who was hired by the town to facilitate EPCAL negotiations, to take the discussion to Albany.
"We've done what we can do," Walter said. "I"m stunned at this point we're down from 800 acres of development to 600." The DEC, he added, "needs to be somewhat accomodating."
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilman Jim Wooten said they met with the DEC on Dec. 14 and were told that an application has not been submitted by the town; Giglio said she was concerned discussions were taking place with the DEC "without paper followup."
Walter said he was told the DEC was "very upset" that town board members had asked to meet with them on their own. "The town has to go to the DEC with a common voice," he said. "You can't have independent meetings."
Wooten assured he did not go to the DEC "with an agenda," but just as a fact-finding exercise.
Giglio reiterated that she believed filing an application with the DEC for the EPCAL subdivision was critical.
"That's wrong," Walter said. "That's where you're getting bait and switched by the DEC. You're getting connived."
Walter said if the town had submitted an applicaton, the DEC would have received lead agency status in the environmental review, something he has said the town should advocate for.
"The DEC is trying to hoodwink you," Walter said, adding that the town should not submit a formal application till they know with certainty about who will retain lead agency status.
Giglio said she felt the meeting was positive with the DEC and she left feeling "reassured that the direction we're going is a positive one." Her hope, she added, is to maximize the amount of land for development. Giglio said she liked the idea of lots near the easterly runway for development.
Walter said the town went in with 800 acres for development and is down to 600, and 38 lots. "This is that proverbial line in the sand with the DEC," he said.
Representatives of the DEC did not immediately return a request for comment.