As of late, Enterprise Park at Calverton — better known as EPCAL — has been the 2900-acre elephant in the room. The Grumman facility, built by the Navy in the 1950s as an assembly and flight-testing facility for military aircraft was closed in 1998, with the U.S. government transferring ownership to the Town of Riverhead Community Development Agency. Nearly all of the now-vacant land still remains untouched.
The transfer occurred under the condition that the site be used for “economic development to replace thousands of well-paid jobs and tax base lost by the Grumman closure,” according to the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency website.
In over two decades, little has happened to meet that goal. But this isn’t for lack of ideas. Everything from racetracks to theme parks to even an indoor ski slope has been proposed to the CDA.
As previously reported in The Independent: One developer, the Florida-based Palm Beach Polo, proposed building a polo center on the undeveloped land. Another developer submitted a proposal for two golf courses and about 100 residences on 500 acres. In 2008, Riverhead Resorts broached the idea of building a $2-billion resort complex that would feature a 35-story indoor ski mountain.
Then in April of this year, Luminati Aerospace, part of the ownership group that intended to purchase 1643 acres of Enterprise Park, reportedly agreed to leave the former Grumman Plant Six in response to an eviction action filed by Laoudis of Calverton, LLC, the owner of the plant. The building was not part of the larger deal, which would transfer the 1643 acres to Calverton Aviation & Technology for $40 million should it go through.
None of these projects have made it past the drawing board, until now.
In August 2019, the CDA accepted plans from CAT to divide the 2900 acres of EPCAL into an eight-lot major subdivision. Luminati Aerospace is owned by Daniel Preston and is said to own 25 percent of CAT. The mall developer Triple Five Group, which is best known for developing large shopping malls like the Mall of America, owns the remainder.
The New York state environmental quality review act analysis of the “Subdivision Map for Enterprise Park at Calverton” states that the acreage will be divided into eight lots, some of which will be utilized by the Town of Riverhead as a community center and town park, and some of which will be “preserved and managed in accordance with a Habitat Protection Plan.” And while the plans promise to preserve more than 1000 acres of protected public lands, some aren’t convinced that this will be enough.
The Greater Calverton Civic Association is “opposed to the subdivision and sale at this time because of the gross misrepresentations and lack of information that is known or required to make an informed decision,” said the GCCA in a letter to Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and the Riverhead Town Board on October 15. The civic group wants to be able to understand the impact of the CDA’s actions, and therefore called for “a specific and non-generic assessment” before the town commits to the final parcel configuration for the development plan and sale of public property.
With Yvette Aguiar taking the town supervisor’s role in January, EPCAL, as usual, is bound to be a hot-button topic in 2020.