Great Rock golf files $25 million suit against Riverhead Town

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Blackwells Restaurant at Great Rock Golf Course.

The owners of the Great Rock golf course in Wading River have filed a $25 million federal lawsuit against Riverhead Town, claiming the town has reneged on a promise it made in a 2009 settlement of a previous suit with Great Rock that said the town would rule on an amended site plan for an expanded clubhouse within 62 days of receiving it.

The lawsuit, filed by Great Rock Golf 2006 and six other corporations that share ownership in the golf course, claims town Planning Director Rick Hanley sent Great Rock a letter on May 3 of this year, nearly three years after the settlement stipulation and about six years after Great Rock first proposed the expansion, saying the Planning Board will not review the application because the golf course is considered a “non-conforming” use in the zone it’s in, and thus needs a special permit, which can only be granted by the Town Board.

“This action was a deliberate, concerted, bad faith attack … to deprive [Great Rock] of their property rights,” says the lawsuit, which names the town and the Planning Board as defendants.

Great Site’s site plan is in two parts, with the clubhouse expansion coming in phase one and a proposal to build 78 “golf villas” for seniors coming in a phase two that has yet to be submitted because phase one has not been approved.

Great Rock had first submitted a site plan application for 54 seniorvillas in Oct. 2006, on the basis that the residences were a permitted accessory use to the golf course. In Oct. 2008, the company amended the site plan application to include 78 villas and an expanded clubhouse.

The May 18, 2009 settlement came after the town brought charges against Great Rock when neighbors complained of noise from events at a temporary tent erected there.

Great Rock maintains in its lawsuit that the town agrees in the settlement that the golf course is a permitted use in an recreation overlay district approved for the property in 1995.

The Town Board’s 2008 zone change doesn’t permit golf courses and eliminated that overlay zone, but Great Rock maintains that the golf course is still permitted and that the 2009 settlement confirms this.

The settlement requested that the clubhouse expansion and the additional villas be submitted as separate applications with the clubhouse project submitted first.

The lawsuit claims the town came up with a variety of reasons to stall the project, including a September 2009 letter from Planning director Rick Hanley to Paul Elliot of Great Rock claiming that a covenant that was supposed to have been filed in 1995 was not, and therefore the planning department would not further review the application. That covenant was later found, the lawsuit says.

Read the complete story in the Aug. 9 issue of The Riverhead News-Review.

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