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Changes to proposed Island Water Park at EPCAL to trigger new review of project

A project nearly two decades in the making at the Enterprise Park at Calverton will require a new slate of reviews before it can ever become reality.

The Riverhead Town Board discussed at Thursday’s work session proposed changes to Island Water Park, which is seeking to replace a “cable-towed” water ski with a surf pool and other activities. Another change is to increase the size of the restaurant proposed at the site.

But town officials say those changes will trigger a whole new review of the project, which had previously received site plan approval from the Town Board in 2013.

Eric Scott, the president of Island Water Park, said in an interview Thursday that he was “misled by the town.”

“[The town] told me that so long as there were no changes to the exterior of the building, I wouldn’t have to go back before the Pine Barrens commission,” Mr. Scott said. “This was the first I was hearing otherwise.”

Island Water Park purchased the 42 acres from Riverhead Town in 2003 for $714,000 and originally planned to build a man-made lake for water skiing. Those plans changed over the years and instead, the plans proposed to have people on water skis being towed across the lake by a cable, rather than using a motor boat to do it. 

The plan approved in 2013 featured the 476,861-square-foot man-made lake, which could be used for cable or rope-towed water skiing as well as for other non-motorized uses like kayaks and canoes. Also included was a 49,200-square-foot multi-purposed building and a 6,000-square-foot multi-purpose building.

Uses proposed included a restaurant and snack bar, a sports shop, a fitness center and offices, among other things.

Prior coverage: Artificial water-skiing lake needs final site plan approval

In the new proposal, the 6,000-square-foot building has been eliminated, the seating capacity of the restaurant increased from 42 to 78, and new plans show a full recreation facility including bumper cars, a ferris wheel, a ninja warrior course, a rock climbing wall, a slide, a racing simulator, a shark tank and an Orbitron gyro ride.

Mr. Scott said that he hopes to bring the water ski attraction back to the project. He said he eliminated it because it would have required too many parking spaces, although town officials said the applicant will seek a Zoning Board of Appeals variance for the additional parking spaces. 

The surf pool, he said, will be a year-round attraction, unlike the water ski ride.

Town planning aide Greg Bergman said the project will be deemed a “type 1” action, meaning that the review will include “significant involvement from multiple involved agencies,” and will require a coordinated review with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Central Pine Barrens Commission, the county Planning Commission, the state Department of Transportation and the county health department. 

Councilman Tim Hubbard questioned what happened with the sand that was excavated to make the lake.

Mr. Scott said in an interview that he donated all of the sand from the lake project to the town for use in making its new ballfields at EPCAL.

“I gave them $1.3 million of sand for free,” he said. 

Mr. Scott believes the project will be a major attraction on the North Fork, echoing his statements from 2012 when he said: “This will be one of the nicest places in the Northeast to go to.”

“I’m going to be every kid’s best friend,” he said Thursday.