Great Rock Golf Course expansion worries Wading River neighbors

A proposed expansion of the clubhouse at the Great Rock Golf Course in Wading River ran into opposition from some neighbors of the facility at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Planning Board meeting. 

The proposal would feature a two-story clubhouse addition featuring a first floor of 6,588 square feet and a 6,230-square-foot basement.

The basement is intended to store golf carts and maintenance equipment, according to Michael Cox, an owner of the club, as well as its attorney.

Neighbors expressed concern at the size of the proposed addition, which they feel would be used for parties.

Mr. Cox and others bought the site in 2014 in a distress sale, as the club had fallen into bankruptcy. It had been in litigation with Riverhead Town for many years as well, and a settlement of that litigation, which was brought by the town, required Great Rock to file a site plan application to expand the clubhouse, so that outdoor events held under tents would no longer be scheduled.

This was driven by noise complaints made by neighbors in 2010 through 2012, under prior owners, Mr. Cox said.

Great Rock has filed for temporary tent permits good for 180 days in recent years.

“The intent is to take the events that occur outdoors under a tent on the patio and bring them indoors,” Mr. Cox said. This will limit noise and allow the club to offer more amenities, he added.

Golf, overall, is on the decline, he said. The golf course and existing restaurant on the property are open year round, he said.

A covenant in a 2009 settlement of a lawsuit brought by the town prohibits “non-golf-related catering” and restaurants on the site.

Sid Bail, the president of the Wading River Civic Association, said there needs to be more clarification on what a “golf event” is.

At one time, under the previous owners, Great Rock contended that all club member events were golf events, a stand the town opposed, maintaining that only events like golf outings or tournaments qualified as golf-related.

“That was a big bone of contention with the neighbors who live around the course,” he said.

A handful of residents raised concerns about the expansion plans Thursday.

Jeanne Marie Krause, who lives on Fairway Drive near the course, said she was one of the residents that sued Great Rock under its prior owners.

“We thought we won, and that this was done,” she said. “I can’t believe we’re revisiting this expansion again.”

She said neighbors have already had problems with noise issues from the club under its new owners.

In May, there was a graduation party with loud music. She said they complained and the Club gave her a gift certificate.

“I won’t be bought,” she said.

I know what people who went up against Vineyard 48 went through, and that’s what I fear that our residents will go through if this is allowed to expand.

Vineyard 48 was a winery in Cutchogue that recently lost its liquor license in response to complaints about drunk and rowdy customers.

“First, we’re going to start out with just having golf events,” Ms. Krause said. “But the next thing you know, we’re going to be back down that road with catered events, where you’ve got the drunks in the parking lot doing — I won’t say out loud what they’re doing — use your imagination.”

She said residents have received flyers about parties at the club.

Ms. Krause said the course devalues neighbor’s homes.

“Frankly, it was really nice that golf course wasn’t around,” said Ray Czenszak of Fairway Drive.

“It’s not that we want them to go out of business, but we want it to be safe for the neighborhood,” said resident Josephine Mackowski.

Ellen McWilliams, a neighbor of the course, said she feels the golf course increases the value of neighbors homes. She East Wind Catering has catered events and “you don’t see any drunks there.”

She said a lot of her neighbors love the course, although they didn’t show up for the hearing.

“They are going out of their way trying to be good neighbors for us,” she said. “The problem is noise, but I think in order for them to survive, they do have to expand.”

Neighbor Patricia Slack said: “I do want the golf course to make it.”

But she said the volume of music played at the site is “unbelievable” and that she has attended non-golf related events there.

The Planning Board closed the public hearing Thursday night but made no ruling.

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