(Updated – 10:50 a.m.) Three new special event permit applications for events at L.I. Sports Park were denied by the Riverhead Town Board at its regular meeting last week.
The owner of the Edwards Avenue facility is in violation of a condition of an existing permit put in place to protect wetlands on the site, according to town officials. The owner was prohibited from placing structures within the wetland area and required to keep event participants out of the four mapped wetlands, Riverhead Town building and planning administrator Jefferson Murphree said.
Town inspectors found that the fence was not installed and the facility had placed disc golf targets within the wetland area and laid out a running track through the wetlands, Murphree said. The facility was ordered to remove them and compliance was made a condition of an upcoming race at the site, but as of the date of the July 2 town board meeting, the violations had not been corrected, Murphree said.
The town board voted unanimously to deny the applications for two “Mexican Live Bull Riding” events planned for July 14 and Aug. 11 by Zamora Entertainment and for a “Holiday Light Show” event planned by Bold Broadcasting for the Christmas holiday season, Nov. 21 through Dec. 31.
“This has been going on for a year-and-a-half or more now,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said, adding that he was not inclined to give the site operator any more chances to comply with the terms of his site plan approval.
Matthew Glaser of Bold Broadcasting, which produced the light show at the site in 2018, asked the board to grant the permit for the show, which he said was “very well-received” and drew 30,000 to 40,000 people to the show “during those few weeks” of the holiday season.
“There were visitors from every single zip code in Nassau and Suffolk,” Glaser said. “There was never a traffic concern.”
He said the show planned for this year was “the same event, only a bit bigger.”
Board members agreed that they had no problem with the light show event.
“It was a really nice family event,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said.
The issue was the alleged repeated site plan violations by the site operator, they told Glaser.
“You’ve gotta talk to the man who runs that property,” Hubbard told him. “He’s been given every opportunity. He says he’s going to [comply] but never does.”
When Glaser tried to make the case that the light show has nothing to do with any other events held there.
“It has everything to do with it,” Hubbard told him, “because that property can only be used when it meets the covenants and restrictions put on it through site plan approvals. So nothing can run up there until he complies. It’s been a year-and-a-half of talk, talk, talk. It’s time for the town to put its foot down,” Hubbard said.
Not true, says L.I. Sports Park owner Dean Del Prete. He notes that the town board put a condition requiring temporary net fencing around the wetlands in the special event permit for the Rugged Maniac race. The planning board originally required the erection of a split-rail fence around the wetlands, but subsequently removed that condition after Del Prete asked the board to reconsider it.
He also denied he has anyone running through the wetlands. The Rugged Maniac course, which he said was depicted on a plan submitted to the town board prior to its approval of the special event permit for the race, includes a gravel path built for golf carts years ago when the site was developed as a golf course. The path is within the 150-foot wetlands buffer, he said, but as a pre-existing path, it can continue to be used.
Del Prete said he cleared that, as well as the placement of disc golf targets within the wetlands buffer. The targets are considered temporary structures and do not require permits, he said.
“It’s very frustrating. It’s very difficult to do business in this town,” Del Prete said. “I’m a good operator. There are never any problems here with events I run. It’s a place people enjoy.”
He said the July 14 event has been canceled but he hopes to get things straightened out with the town so that the other events can go forward.
L.I. Sports Park opened in April 2016 on the 82-acre former Calverton Links golf course. The site is zoned for industrial use but Calverton Links was granted a special permit in 1992 to allow the development of “a golf course and associated uses only.” The golf course ceased operation in 2013 and the property was sold to Bashi Calverton Links, which rented it to L.I. Sports Park. Del Prete said in an April 2016 press release the park would host music and art festivals, themed runs, a Zombie Festival and had plans for a nature trail on the 82-acre site.
The site is currently one of several in the area slated for development as a commercial solar energy production facility and Del Prete said in an interview in May he is looking for another location.
After approving four special event permits for the site in May 2016, the town told Bashi Calverton Links and L.I. Sports Park that no additional special event permits would be granted unless the site owner first obtained site plan approval and a use permit.
The planning board approved a site plan with conditions in May 2018. The conditions of approval included the installation of a split-rail fence along the 100-foot wetland buffer around the four mapped wetlands on the site. That condition was removed by a planning board resolution approved in September.
The site plan approval also required the operator to obtain a special event permit from the town board whenever a planned event is expected to have attendance that will require more than the 193 existing parking spaces on the site.
The town board in May issued an event permit for a “Rugged Maniac” race scheduled for Sept. 7 at the facility. Other upcoming events include a “Bonefrog 5K” on Aug. 17 (a Navy Seals obstacle race) and a Zenscape Yoga Festival on Sept. 28, according to the company’s website.
The facility is open daily for mini-golf, disc golf, foot golf, airsoft and paintball.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from Long Island Sports Park operator Dean Del Prete.
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