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LIMBA speaker- Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter

September 7, 2012 @ 12:00 am EDT


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Our speaker this morning was Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter

Today we were brought up to date on the Riverhead project known as “EPCAL” http://www.townofriverheadny.gov/files/documents/Epcal.OFB.home.pdf

This Navel Weapons Reserve Plant had been leased to Grumman. It was turned over by the Navy to the Town of Riverhead at no cost when the Grumman Company no longer needed to test planes there. The property grant was supposed to create jobs to replace those jobs lost when defense collapsed.

According to Walter “the potential is a billion dollars, if it’s a dollar.” Walter thinks the sale of the property to Jan Burman for $17 million was a mistake. Since then numerous proposals have been made, and some of them bordered on ludicrous, including an indoor ski mountain. Yes, I did say ski mountain. There are probably worse ideas, but I’m not yet insane enough to imagine them.

The property suffers from the need of multiple layers of approvals to get anything done. Approvals from the Town, County, and I believe the state. A similar property in Massachusetts was offered-up to local jurisdiction. These obstacles were overcome when various interested parties cooperated.

In Riverhead there are people who are working on introducing an overall plan and making changes in zoning to facilitate the development of this valuable place.

When municipalities have complex problems and many conflicting interests the remedy in the past has been to create an “authority.” However a good idea that may be, the term authority has a negative ring to it. Instead Senator Lavalle and the town officials are trying to create legislation that makes it more like the structure of the Pine Barrens. Here are some features they have to work with.

Air Strip

The plan at this time is quite comprehensive and the property has some very assets including an airstrip that will be preserved and used by aviation related businesses. The idea of moving airfreight at EPCAL has been roundly rejected years ago. And use as a general aviation airport will not happen either

Rail Link

There is a rail link into the property and with our more recent enthusiasm for rail freight; this becomes a very valuable feature. However it is not being considered as a secondary rail trans-load center as was built in Yaphank. The perceived value is a conduit for local business.

Maglev Test Track

The inventors of the Maglev train have created a system that makes the Maglev compatible with conventional rail. There is a TIGER grant filed with the federal government. TIGER grants need an agreeable municipal partner to be funded and Riverhead has been on board for some time. The State of New York is considering lending support as well. The track is too short, (2 miles) to demonstrate Maglev speed but what will be demonstrated is the ability to lift heavy loads and be more stable than any rail technology devised so far. Riverhead and the state do not need to come up with money they merely need to declare the idea as being useful to that municipality.

Ernie Fazio