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Town puts the brakes on special events planned for former Calverton golf course

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The Riverhead Town Board last night denied a special event permit for a "Zombie Run" scheduled for Saturday, and two other events planned for the Long Island Sports Park on Edwards Avenue. File photo: Emil Breitenbach Jr.

Three upcoming events planned for the Long Island Sports Park, a recreation facility that opened in April on the grounds of the former Calverton Links golf course on Edwards Avenue, have been denied special event permits by the Riverhead Town Board.

The board last night denied permit applications for a planned “Zombie Run,” “Potato Festival” and the “Pour the Core” hard cider festival — all of which were already being promoted by organizers. The “Zombie Run” was slated to take place on Saturday.

The previous owner of the site, which is zoned for industrial use, was granted a special permit in 1992 to allow the development of “a golf course and associated uses only.”

Calverton Links ceased operation in 2013 and the site was sold in 2014 to Bashi Calverton Links LLC. Long Island Sports Park opened for business April 30. Long Island Sports Park principal Dean Del Prete said in an April 21 press release the park would host music and art festivals, themed runs, a Zombie Festival and had plans for a nature trail on the 80-acre site.

On May 3, the town board approved special event permits for four race events at the park. Three of them have already taken place. The fourth, a “Rugged Maniac” race, is scheduled for Sept. 17. During a work session discussion of the applications, town board members agreed they no additional special event permits would be granted unless the site owner first obtained site plan approval and a use permit. The owner and operator had been advised of that in a letter from the building department, officials said.

In order to establish any other use at the site, the current owner is required to obtain a use permit for the new use and obtain site plan approval, according to town officials. Parviz Farahzad, principal in Bashi Calverton Links LLC applied for a new use permit on March 30 but was denied because a site plan approval must first be obtained before the use permit can be issued. No site plan application has yet been filed, officials said.

“The golf course use has extinguished. There’s no principal use any more,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said yesterday. The owner of the site might be able to use the site in this fashion, but they have to follow the legal process for approvals, he said.

Long Island Sports Park principal Dean Del Prete yesterday was incredulous that the board was even considering denying the permit applications.

“I’m expecting to get all the applications approved tonight,” he said in an afternoon phone interview. “They approved other ones,” he said.

The four special event permits approved by May 3 passed in 3-2 votes, with the supervisor and Councilman James Wooten voting against them. Councilman Tim Hubbard said before that meeting he would not support any future special event applications. Last night, Hubbard and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio joined Walter and Wooten in the denials. Only Councilman John Dunleavy voted to approve. Dunleavy said he didn’t see the difference between approving drive-in movies at Riverhead Raceway and the sports park applications.

“I’m acting in good faith,” Del Prete said yesterday. “I hired an architect and an attorney. I met with the planning department staff two weeks ago. Town board members were there,” he said.

“I don’t see why they wouldn’t approve them. Personally,  I think it’s a big nothing,” Del Prete said.

“We told him in writing this was how it would be,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said yesterday.

“It’s an abuse,” Wooten said yesterday. “He needs to come in and go through the process.”

Andy Calimano of promotion company Starfish Junction Productions, which puts on the Pour the Core Hard Cider Festival and the L.I. Potato Festival, among others, said yesterday he was “taken aback that this would become an issue.”

“Dean has given us assurance he’s going to work out everything he needs to do with the town,”” Calimano said in a phone interview yesterday afternoon. “My understanding is that he is working with the town right now on a site plan, It’s in Dean’s hands.”

Starfish Junction is “just renting the property,” Calimano said. “If we need to go with plan B, we’ll go with plan B,” he said. Calimano declined to identify potential alternate locations for either event. The hard cider festival is scheduled for Oct. 1 and the potato festival is on for Oct. 2.

The Calverton Links site was once slated for a retirement community, under a proposal made by in 1987 by Fred Moore, the developer who built John Wesley Village in Riverhead. A long environmental review process led to the development of an alternative plan, a nine-hold golf course approved by special permit of the town board in 1992.