March 29, 2006
Rumors about the fate of the Riverhead Development Corporation and its chair have been swirling around Town Hall. But, this week, all the hearsay will be put to rest.
Tomorrow, the town board is expected to meet with Bobby Goodale, chairman of the RDC, to determine the future of the organization, which is charged with fielding development proposals for town-owned land at Enterprise Park at Calverton.
Since its conception some six years ago, the RDC has met with numerous developers, many of whom have long since left Riverhead, to determine if their proposals are "right" for the former Grumman property.
They listened to proposals about equestrian facilities, racetracks, hotel/conference centers, housing developments, and amusement parks. Many proposals were cast out before even reaching the Riverhead Town Board, while others actually reached the ears of elected officials.
However, over the past two years, the RDC has found itself with little work. In his last report to the town board in June 2004, Goodale told the town board, "Our report is a little thin. There wasn't that much activity in terms of proposals brought to the RDC."
At the time, Goodale said the reason for so little activity was due to a rezoning of 600 acres of the town's recreationally-zoned property to light industrial and office park. That rezoning is still pending, but is expected to be complete in the near future.
"I think the RDC has performed a valuable function," said Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale. "But, their job has been to field proposals before they get to the town board and that is not happening because the proposals are almost immediately known to the town board and to the public."
A most recent example is the well-published Wilpon deal in which a Staten Island developer effectively negotiated a price for EPCAL property over WRIV radio waves. That deal, which was never vetted by the RDC, died during last year's political race for the town supervisor's seat.
"Thursday's meeting is sure to generate an interesting discussion on the future of the RDC," said Cardinale.
Councilman Ed Densieski agreed: "I have always thought that if we are not using RDC, then it should be disbanded."
Densieski is also of the mind that the town board should be looking at all proposals for EPCAL, anyway.
This is not the first time a disbanding of the RDC was discussed. In late 2003, talks to dissolve the group came after the town board learned that the developers of a theme proposal that the RDC endorsed lied about their financial backing.
However, rather than dissolving the group, a new review process was set up in which the RDC is responsible for exploring a developers' financial status and managerial background.
Goodale did not return calls by press time.