The Island Water Park site in August 2020. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Island Water Park, a proposed recreational water sports facility heralded by Riverhead officials as a major tourist attraction and economic development initiative, has been issued a stop-work order by the town. 

The order was issued Monday after town officials determined the developer of the facility was doing construction at the site without site plan or building permit approvals, according to Building and Planning Administrator Jefferson Murphree. Murphree said in a call on Wednesday the developer had done unpermitted grading and drainage work, and interior construction pouring concrete for an indoor wave pool.

Island Water Park obtained preliminary approval from the town board July 7 for a revised site plan covering changes and additions to a previously approved site plan. Final approval of the revised site plan, as well as building permit approvals, are required before new work can be authorized. Murphree said he did not know how long the work had been going on.

Daniel Baker, an attorney with Certilman, Balin, Adler and Hyman, the firm representing Island Water Park, told the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency at a public hearing last week that the indoor wave pool had been completed. He said the work had been done between an IDA hearing in September and a supplemental hearing held Nov. 8. “I saw it as it’s happening and I’ve seen it since it’s done. So it just shows the significant effort that the applicants were making to move the project forward and continue on,” Baker said.

The IDA board voted after last week’s hearing to approve a 10-year property tax abatement and other financial assistance to the developer. The estimated cost of the project is $25 million and the facility is expected to attract 900,000 visitors annually, according to documents filed with the IDA. 

Area residents have complained to the town board about alleged work going on at the site. Complaints voiced at a town board meeting last month included reports of alleged excavating and removal of sand and soils from the site during nighttime hours.

Manorville resident Kelly McKlinchy at the Oct. 19 town board meeting said area residents were concerned about potential impacts to water quality.

Under town code, materials are not supposed to be exported from or imported into a work site without a separate permit, a per-cubic yard fee and a town-appointed monitor.

Murphree said the town didn’t react to what he called “speculation” by the residents. After he got confirmation from the site manager that work had been done, town officials visited the site and issued the stop-work order, he said. 

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar last month called the comments made by McClinchy and other residents a coordinated political attack on her because of the upcoming election. Aguiar has been touting Island Water Park as a “mini Disneyland” to national press outlets like the New York Post.

Island Water Park executive Ken Meyers told the IDA board during the Nov. 8 hearing that the developer had purchased the “largest in the world” inflatable aqua park and already had it in storage on site. The facility has a 20-acre manmade lake originally approved years ago for use by a water ski club. After the developer’s excavation struck groundwater, the State DEC would not allow the use of gas-powered motorcraft in the lake and Island Water Park changed its plans for the site to eliminate disallowed uses. It proposed a rope-tow water ski system and nonmotorized water sport vehicles, including canoes, sailboats and kayaks. The inflatable aqua park was not part of the current application. In fact the preliminary site plan approval granted July 7 states:

“No additional structures or apparatus shall be constructed or placed in the lake without obtaining approval for an amended site plan from the Riverhead Town Board.”

The recreational facility will consist of an “indoor/outdoor extreme water sports park, including an indoor surf pool, rock-climbing walls, indoor and outdoor volleyball courts, a zip line, spectator seating, obstacle courses, bumper boats, water slides, fitness center, spa, a pro shop and restaurants,” according to documents filed with the IDA. 

Myers said the park is expected to open and fully operational in March or April of 2022.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.