Artificial water-skiing lake needs final site plan approval

01/30/2015 8:00 AM |
Island Water Park is set to be built on this 42-acre plot in Calverton and expected to cost up to $25 million. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Island Water Park is set to be built on this 42-acre plot in Calverton and expected to cost up to $25 million. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Island Water Park’s long-sought plans to build an artificial water-skiing lake in Calverton have reached the 15-year mark, but the property’s owner says he now needs just one more approval before he can start building.

In December, Island Water Park submitted a new site plan application to Riverhead Town. Owner Eric Scott says that if it’s approved, he will finally be able to move forward with the project. 

“I’ve been moving forward in baby steps,” Mr. Scott said of the proposal. “I have all the major stuff, but the little stuff has been taking just as long.”

The “major stuff” includes approval from the Central Pine Barrens Commission, the Suffolk County Planning Commission and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, he said.

Mr. Scott’s new application was filed Dec. 19 and is similar to the plan approved by the Suffolk County Planning Commission on Dec. 5, 2012.

When reached this week, Jeff Murphree, Riverhead Town’s planning and building administrator, said he has yet to review the Island Water Park site plan. Because of this, he said, he cannot confirm whether town approval is indeed the last step needed for Mr. Scott to move forward.

Island Water Park will require its latest approval from the Town Board, which has site plan authority for all proposals at the former Grumman land now known as the Enterprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL. Projects elsewhere in town require only Planning Board site plan approval.

The town planning department is shorthanded this year, as two full-time positions were left unfilled following retirements. It only has one full-time planner, in addition to the Mr. Murphree, and is seeking a part-time environmental planner.

Island Water Park’s site plan calls for the creation of an 11-acre groundwater-fed, unlined lake that can tow water-skiers and wake boarders by using a series of overhead cables rather than motor boats.

“This will be a huge asset to businesses in Riverhead,” Mr. Scott said. “This will bring people from outside Long Island to Riverhead. I’m going to be every kid’s best friend.”

The project is expected to cost between $20 million to $25 million, according to Mr. Scott, who sells boats and said he has private investors for the proposal. He said people have constantly doubted that he actually wants to build the water park, accusing him of building a sand mine instead.

“If I didn’t want to do this, why would I keep spending money on it for 17 years?” Mr. Scott said. “I get aggravated when people say I’m a sand miner in disguise. I gave the town $1 million worth of sand for free for use in the [EPCAL] ballfields. I just want my park open.”

One positive byproduct to the project taking so long: in the interim, it allowed Mr. Scott and his family and friends to ride ATVs and dirt bikes on the site.

And the practice has paid off. Mr. Scott’s son Jake is now a professional dirt bike rider who appeared in the X-games over the weekend as a result of the training he got on the Calverton site, Mr. Scott said.

In addition to the water skiing lake, Island Water Park also proposes to have a separate lake for swimming, scuba diving, kayaks, canoes and volleyball. It also proposes to have a 49,000-square-foot building that can house a restaurant, showroom, fitness center and retail stores, as well as a second 6,000-square-foot building for retail, storage and food sales.

QUICK HISTORY

When Island Water Park was first proposed n the late 1990s, it was planned for a site on Youngs Avenue near the town landfill. But after neighbors complained, the town urged Mr. Scott to instead locate the facility at the town-owned EPCAL.

Island Water Park eventually bought a 42-acre site at EPCAL for $714,000 and began plans for two man-made lakes for water skiing with a plastic liner underneath to protect groundwater.

However, the project came to a halt when it hit groundwater sooner than expected and was then required by the DEC to obtain an excavation permit. It also got caught up in a lawsuit between Riverhead Town and New York State over whether the state Pine Barrens Commission had jurisdiction over projects within EPCAL.

Island Water Park’s plan was later altered to call for motor boats towing water skiers on a groundwater-fed artificial lake with no plastic liner — a plan that was also met with opposition. In 2010, Mr. Scott revamped the proposal to eliminate motor boats altogether and instead seek the overhead cable-towing proposal.

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