A resort and spa is being proposed on the 94-acre Broad Cove property east of Indian Island County Park.
The project, which is in its initial stages, is being called “The Vineyard Resort and Spa.”
The former duck farm property in Aquebogue is currently owned by Stanley Weiss of Smithtown, but he is in contract to sell it to a group called Red Cedar Meadows, according to Larry Oxman, who is a principal in the group. Mr. Oxman said Ray Castronovo, a builder and member of the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association, is also a member of the group, although he declined to identify the other principals.
The proposal calls for 450 guest rooms totaling 360,000 square feet; 50 villas, a health spa, restaurants; banquet facilities; shops and a club house.
Only about eight percent of the land, or 7.2 acres, would be developed under the proposal, Mr. Oxman said.
The property is zoned Tourist Resort Campus, which permits those uses with a special permit from the Town Board. Without the special permit, the zoning would permit bed and breakfasts, a country inn, a country club and a recreational or sporting club.
Mr. Oxman said the zoning without a special permit would hypothetically permit “50 bed and breakfasts.”
“This piece is going to be one of the larger developments in town outside of EPCAL,” Mr. Oxman told the Town Board at its work session on Thursday, where the proposal was discussed.
Mr. Oxman said the project would provide property revenue to the town and Riverhead School District, as well as permanent job creation “providing skilled and unskilled employment for local residents.”
It also would create construction jobs and would leave 75 percent of the land open space, he said.
“If I had my druthers, I’d rather you got the wetlands permit and the site plan approved first before you come to the Town Board, and we would be your last line,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “I only want to see you before the Town Board when the project is really far along.”
Mr. Walter said he thinks the proposal would be a “nice amenity” for the town, but he wants the applicant to submit a fully engineered site plan first.
The special permit process requires a public hearing before the Town Board. Normally, special permit approvals must be acquired first, and then site plan approval from the Planning Board comes next.
“I would really want to hear what the public has to say about this before you invest all this money,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said.
Mr. Oxman said the material he presented to the board is “a meet and great” to introduce the project.
He said the project is only in its beginning stages.
“We have a long road ahead of us,” Mr. Oxman said.
The Broad Cove property hasn’t been a duck farm for more than 30 years. Under a previous owner, Norman Felske of Quogue, the property received a special permit for 500 condos and boat slips in 1975. Mr. Felske renewed the permit five times before the state Department of Environmental Conservation fined him $500,000 for illegally bulldozing wetlands.
In 1988, the town refused to renew the permit again and Mr. Felske sued and a judge upheld his permits. The Town Board then voted to renew the permit if Mr. Felske agreed to reduce the number of condos to 396. That approval was successfully challenged in court by the North Fork Environmental Council.
County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) had submitted a bill to have the county purchase the property in 2015, but Mr. Weiss subsequently rejected that offer, according to a representative who attended the Town Board meeting.
The former duck farm property, which was listed by the Nature Conservancy as one of the three most important properties for preservation in 2007, is only one not acquired as open space.
Photo caption: A view of the property near Indian Island on Thursday afternoon. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)