After debating the issue numerous times since last summer — in fact, the word “flyboard” appears in 12 headlines in the News-Review online archives — the Riverhead Town Board adopted new regulations for flyboarding at its March 18 meeting, where the vote took place without much debate near 11 p.m., after a four-hour meeting.
But the owner of Flyboard LI, the company that brought flyboarding to the waters of downtown Riverhead last summer, says he’s leaving rather than trying to adapt to the new rules, which would push the activity out into deeper water near the Route 105 bridge.
“Unfortunately they are kicking a great new startup business out of town,” Flyboard LI owner James Bissett IV said via email.
He said his business brought hundreds of people to the Town of Riverhead in its first season.
Mr. Bissett said he will be operating out in Flanders Bay and Great Peconic Bay.
“We are trying to build a great town here, but without any attractions it’s hard to do that,” he said. “It’s a beautiful riverfront town and there is not much going on on the river. I will still continue to do my business in the Peconic Bay because it adds to our resort destination at the Hyatt Place East End hotel and Long Island Aquarium. The amount of people that will come to my location will drop, but that is alright. I will be running in another location that is happy to have me in their village.”
Flyboarding involves being propelled into the air while riding a hoverboard that’s powered by, and attached to, a Jetski. Flyboarders can go as high as 35 feet in the air, according to Mr. Bissett.
HOW EXACTLY DOES FLYBOARDING WORK? WATCH THIS VIDEO BELOW:
The adopted regulations require flyboards and other “JetPack Vessels” to be keep at least 300 feet in all directions, including vertically, from any bridge, residence, structure, shore, wharf, pier, piling, mooring, buoy, vessel or people in the water.
They also can’t operate in a channel, or within 20 feet of a channel marker or in water with a depth of less than six feet.
Town officials said this would push flyboards back to an area east of the County Road 105 bridge.
Councilman John Dunleavy cast the lone “no” vote, saying he wanted to push them even further away.
“I don’t like these things being in the bay but the rest of the board thinks it should be in our code,” Mr. Dunleavy said. He feels they should only be allowed in the Long Island Sound.
The issue came to light last summer when Flyboard LI, run by James Bissett IV — the son of the late Atlantis Marine World founder — began operating in waters behind Treasure Cove Marina in downtown Riverhead.
Several neighbors complained about noise from the operation, and although there were no specific regulations regarding flyboarding at the time, the town bay constable issued numerous summonses to Flyboard LI for violations of navigation law, such as not having a boating safety certificate and towing without an observer.
The town initially proposed regulations that would have required flyboards to be 500 feet from shore. That met with opposition from Flyboard LI and from Bryan DeLuca, the general manager of the complex that owns Treasure Cove, the Hyatt hotel and the aquarium, which is now called Long Island Aquarium.
They suggested the town base its regulations and those in the State of Maryland, which required flyboards and other JetPack Vessels to stay at least 100 feet “from any bridge, structure, shore, wharf, pier, piling, mooring ball, buoy, vessel or person in the water.”
Mr. Bissett has previously told town officials that he feels the 300-feet from shore requirement is excessive and puts flyboarders in danger because they would be nearer to fast moving boats in the open waters. He said the water they use near Treasure Cove is six feet deep at low tide and about 12 feet at high tide.
Mr. Bissett has said that keeping the activity 300 feet from residences is warranted, because of the noise complaints, but 300 feet from shore is excessive.
“A hundred feet is plenty enough,” he said at a Jan. 21 Town Board meeting. He said Flyboard LI has brought more than 400 people to downtown Riverhead, and pushing them out to sea isn’t going to benefit downtown.