Lawsuit filed to halt Great Rock expansion plans

The Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, which has been urging Town Board members to take action to stop four large commercial projects in Wading River, is now taking the town to court over one of those projects.

The group announced Wednesday night that it has filed suit to block the proposed 7,200-square-foot expansion of the clubhouse at Great Rock Golf Club for use in holding catered events, saying that covenants attached to the property’s original subdivision, along with existing zoning, “prevent the construction of a catering hall in a residential neighborhood.”

The lawsuit named the Town Board, the Planning Board and the Great Rock group as defendants. It seeks to prohibit the Planning Board from reviewing the application.

“The lawsuit is based on invalid legal assumptions and it’s going to be dismissed, hopefully sooner than later,” said John Ciarelli, the attorney for Great Rock. He said the use is permitted under zoning.

“The use is permitted in the recreation zone, the town accepted that and acted on it, and the golf course accepted that and acted on it,” he continued. “If there’s any complaints now, it’s too late to act.”

The preservation coalition has been speaking out against four proposed commercial projects along Route 25A and western Sound Avenue in Wading River that its members believe “will destroy the rural character of the community.”

“So far, nothing substantive has been done, which is why we are compelled to take this action,” said the group’s president, Dominique Mendez, who also lives in the Great Rock neighborhood and has long been a critic of the operation’s management and business plans.

Coalition members discussed the Great Rock proposal with Town Board members last Thursday.

At that discussion, Ms. Mendez said neither the property’s current zoning nor the recreation overlay under which Great Rock was approved many years ago permitted a restaurant and bar, and both prohibit non-golf-related catering.

She said that not only is an expansion of a non-conforming use prohibited, but that the clubhouse should never have been allowed to begin with.

The use of the clubhouse for catering events is not legal, she maintained.

“The clubhouse was allowed because the covenants were ignored as if they didn’t exist,” Ms. Mendez said.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter disagreed.

“Three separate attorneys … have researched this and the things you are saying are not the opinion of three separate attorneys,” Mr. Walter said. “They have told us it is not a non-conforming use.”

Great Rock was approved as a special permit, which was allowed under the zoning at the time, and that special permit approval carries over to today, Mr. Walter said.

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