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Sand miner’s idea to build lakes at Cherry Creek, turn land into town park catches attention of local pols

A Bay Shore man has raised eyebrows — and a great deal of anger — with a plan to create man-made lakes on the site of the Cherry Creek golf courses that’s currently listed for sale — property the Suffolk County Legislature is also considering purchasing for open space.

The idea from sand miner Robert Edgemon of Edgemon Site Works would be to then sell the sand that’s excavated while donating the property to Riverhead Town for a community park.

Mr. Edgemon — who has not yet submitted any formal plans or even directly discussed buying the property with the current owners — sent a Facebook message to a local civic organization that caught the attention of town and county officials.

Vincent Sasso, a co-owner of the property, said last night that the proposal is “completely hare-brained. I have never talked to this man. This is just crazy. We would never do this to Riverhead. I don’t understand where this has come from.”

Mr. Edgemon’s idea, which he sent to the president of the Greater Calverton Civic Association, calls for excavating either three 30-acre or two 50-acre freshwater lakes on the property, which is home to Cherry Creek Golf Links and The Woods at Cherry Creek. The property is not within the boundaries of Calverton.

Once the lakes are built, the property, which borders Sound Avenue in Riverhead, would be developed into a town-owned community park and the excavated sand would be sold to area concrete mixing plants on Long Island and a couple in New York City, Mr. Edgemon said. He estimates that 10 to 14 million yards of sand could be excavated and that the sale of that sand would generate about $140 million. Once the sand has been excavated, the property would be turned over to Riverhead Town, he said.

Mr. Edgemon said the aquifer is 46 feet deep on the site and the state Department of Environmental Conservation would allow him to dig 20 feet deep. The plan would need approvals from both the town and the DEC, as well as other agencies.

In the interview Saturday evening, Mr. Sasso said the very idea of someone doing this to the property is “absolutely wrong. We know nothing about this, and it makes me very mad.”

For his part, Mr. Edgemon said — if his idea ever got off the ground — that there would be no materials brought into the site and that the lakes would remain forever. He said the project would take about two years to complete, but that he would begin making payments to the current landowners from the start, ultimately splitting the proceeds of the entire project with them before turning the land over.

The community park he proposes to build would have baseball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts and other recreational opportunities, he said.

“The town would love to have a 300-acre community park,” Mr. Edgemon said.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said that while she was made aware of the idea, the Town Council has not discussed it. No formal plans of any sort have been presented to the town.

“I know that he’s floated the idea out there,” she said. “That’s something that we need to discuss together as a board.” 

The supervisor said her main concern is that Riverhead would lose nearly $350,000 in property taxes by acquiring the land as a community park and taking it off the tax rolls.

Other concerns, she said, include the cost of maintaining the community park and environmental and legal issues.

“This is something I would be very careful in pursuing,” she said.

Cherry Creek is owned by Mr. Sasso, 80, and Charles Jurgens, 95, who have taken steps to sell the property.

Mr. Sasso emphatically said in the interview that the idea is “without any basis at all.” He said he was angry that others in the town know about the idea and he knows nothing at all.

He previously told the News-Review he was letting a real estate agent from Brown Harris Stevens handle the matter. For his part, Mr. Edgemon said he has spoken with the listing agent.

The plan is in direct conflict with a recent action taken by the Suffolk County Legislature, which last month approved a resolution authorizing an appraisal of the two golf courses. Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) has said he favors purchasing the courses as preserved open space. 

The county resolution states that no appraisal shall be ordered unless the Riverhead Town Board passes a resolution agreeing to partner on the development rights. The two courses total just under 300 acres. 

Mr. Krupski said he’s heard about the proposal and spoken to a number of people about it.

“I didn’t speak to anyone in Riverhead about it, but I spoke to people who were familiar with sand mining operations,” he said. “I think it’s something that people find interesting, but on the other hand, there’s a lot of concern about sand mining operations.”

He said sand mining operations — if such a thing ever occurred on the property — often last forever, and he would like to see a firm deadline on finishing the excavating work. He said he’d also like to make sure the plan is safe for people, since the lakes would likely have recreational uses like kayaking and fishing. There would also have to be assurances than no outside material is brought onto the site and that sand would only be removed.

In their attempts to market the site for sale, the golf course owners have listed it at $25 million, a price tag Mr. Edgemon believes is too steep for preservation.

“The county can’t afford that,” he said.

Questions about Mr. Edgemon and his business could not be answered last night. His company has almost no online presence — a search reveals little more than a handful of free classified ads. He said he has 17 years experience mining sand legally. He said an inspector would be at the site daily making sure the project gets done the right way.

Adrienne Esposito, the executive director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, characterized the proposal as “pure insanity,”

“This is how we turn a beautiful Long Island into an unsustainable place to live,” she said.

“We shouldn’t be digging down to the groundwater,” she added. “Sand mines create giant holes down to the aquifer which allows for increased ability for contamination. We’re supposed to be taking care of the aquifer, not making it more vulnerable.”