EPCAL (enterprise park at Calverton)
The enterprise park at Calverton ("EPCAL") is the old Grumman facility on Route 25 that closed in the 1990s. The U.S. Navy subsequently deeded it for re-use to the Town of Riverhead Community Development Agency, which consists of the Town Board. The subject area includes nearly 3,000 acres within the core or compatible growth areas of the Pine Barrens. For more information on Pine Barrens management visit http://www.pb.state.ny.us. EPCAL contains two large runways, associated buildings, and a sewage treatment plant that indirectly discharges to the Peconic River. The old buildings are employed in a variety of light industrial and commercial uses. The bulk of the property remains undeveloped.
There are two substantial proposals under contract with the town, subject to site plan review. The first is a light industrial park of 300 acres by REPCAL. The second is a destination resort of 755 acres by Riverhead Resorts. The Riverhead Town Board acts as the Planning Board for proposals in EPCAL, thus is responsible for site plan review. REPCAL has submitted a site plan that triggered environmental review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA"). The Riverhead Resorts project is still in its feasibility review.
These projects are partially within the groundwater and surface watersheds of the Peconic River. The Riverhead Resorts project is also partly within the Scenic River boundary of the Peconic River under the NYS Wild, Scenic, and Recreational River Act. State endangered species at issue include the Tiger Salamander and Short-Eared Owls. There are several other grassland dependent bird species present that are threatened or are of special concern. The site, originally vegetated as the rest of the Pine Barrens, was substantially cleared and now comprises one of the largest contiguous grasslands in the state. The site also contains state protected freshwater wetlands. Traffic impacts may be very large and it appears, primarily because of Riverhead Resorts, that state (route 25) and possibly federal highway (interstate 495) expansions shall be required.
We are members of a coalition of approximately 27 environmental and community groups who are reviewing these proposals. The major issues are general quality of life and community character; however, impacts to our mission waters are possible as well. Aside from our concern for our mission waters, we share the coalition's wider concern about what Riverhead seems to see as its future. We do not oppose economic development at EPCAL, but believe it can be done in an environmentally compatible manner by protecting sensitive lands and requiring Low Impact Development ("LID") techniques on land leases for commercial and light industrial development. For more information on LIDs see http://www.epa.gov/nps/lid/. This will ensure long-term income for the Town through responsible use. Review of the impacts for the REPCAL proposal is being done by the Town, which is also selling the property. We hope that the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation will lead the review process of Riverhead Resorts. For more information, and to support the coalition's efforts, visit http://www.calvertongrasslands.org/.